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What is the difference between child custody and guardianship?

| Apr 21, 2021 | Child Custody |

Illinois law does not consider someone an adult until they turn 18 years of age. It treats anyone under that age as a minor and requires an adult to take responsibility for their affairs, including where they live, what school they attend and what medical care they receive. 

Usually, this is the child’s parents. Yet, sometimes another person takes this role through guardianship.

What is custody of a minor?

When you have a child, as parents, you naturally have custody. You are legally responsible for your child until they reach adulthood. If you do not live together as a couple or later split up, a court needs to determine custody.

There are two types of custody: Legal and physical. Legal custody means who has the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the child. Usually, both parents would share this. Physical custody refers to who the child spends time with, and there are several ways to arrange this.

What is guardianship of a child?

Guardianship is when someone else takes the place of parents incapable of looking after their child. That could be because both parents die or when one parent dies and the other cannot provide the child with a safe environment due to addiction, domestic violence, incarceration or mental health issues.

Guardianship can only be conferred by a judicial decree — which means that it cannot be established simply by turning over physical custody to another party. While custody of a child is sometimes temporarily handed off to a family member, like an aunt, uncle or grandparent, when the parents have problems, that doesn’t give the adult any real authority over the child.

What should you do if you have a problem regarding child custody?

Understanding the laws related to child custody and guardianship can be challenging. It is crucial to seek an attorney’s help when making arrangements related to a child. They need the right person to take care of them until they turn 18.

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