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What’s the Difference Between Custody and Adoption?

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Joe Escalante
Hi Joe,

What’s the difference between custody and adoption?

– Antonio Alvarado Rodriguez


Barely Legal Radio w/ Joe Escalante

Custody can take different forms. There’s the ever-changing, court-approved custody arrangement between separated or divorced parents. Then there’s temporary custody awarded to guardians for one reason or another; perhaps a mother has a reason for granting custody of her child to another family while the child lives with the family going to school near them, or trains for the Olympics, etc.

Sometimes a guardian has custody of an adult who has been deemed incapacitated by order of a family court proceeding.

These are all temporary and limited arrangements. They can be revoked or changed by petitioning the court. They are usually limited in scope. A child custody arrangement may not include the ability of the custodial parent to make major medical decisions without approval of the actual parents, but it would include authority to send the kid on field trips with the school, etc. Or an adult guardianship might include medical decisions, but not access to financial assets of the ward.

Adoption is permanent and involves a termination of the prior guardian’s rights. It generally cannot be revoked. After adoption, the adoptive parent has all the rights of the prior, or biological, parents. There are no limitations or strings attached like with custodial arrangements.

Attorney Joe Escalante answers your legal questions for free on our Facebook page every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m. PT.


The advice Joe gives is general; it is solely his opinion and not that of LegalZoom. He is a licensed California Attorney with years of experience; users from other states should take care to review the laws in their own states. LegalZoom is not a law firm. This free service is intended to get you headed in the right direction, not to replace an attorney. This is a public forum. No attorney-client relationship is formed with Joe, or LegalZoom, and the attorney-client privilege does not apply. LegalZoom does not verify, validate, or confirm the advice given by Joe. LegalZoom cannot guarantee the quality, or reliability of any legal advice provide by Joe.

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March 28th, 2014 at 11:06 am

Posted in Legal News