Adoption and Legal Guardianship

A bit of history

In ancient Greece and Rome, both adoption and legal guardianship were common.  It was neither a secret nor a taboo.  It allowed a person to create a male heir from outside his family to carry on his family name and inherit his estate.  It was also a way to forge interfamily ties and political alliances.  Alternatively, legal guardianships were another option to protect orphans and abandoned children.  The Roman family was the building block of society.  It was a worshipping unit, which required a male heir to be the head or priest of the family.  All children, who came of age, natural or adopted, under Roman law, which influenced Jewish inheritance laws, were automatically joint-heirs with the living father.  Remember the Prodigal Son?  He wanted 1/3 share of his father’s estate when his father was still alive.  Birth, not death, inherits.

Basic differences between adoption and legal guardianship

Adoption is an opportunity of a lifetime.  It celebrates life, a new beginning.  Both adoption and guardianship are two different ways of caring for a child by providing a suitable home.  A legal guardianship merely establishes a legal relationship between a child and an adult who is not the child’s biological parent.  It makes you responsible for the child’s welfare and safety until he or she reaches the age of majority.  An adoption makes the child’s legal status the same as if he or she was your birth child with a new identity.  It extinguishes the rights and obligations of the biological parents in favour of you.

Who can be appointed a legal guardian?

A legal guardian is either a natural parent or an appointed guardian.  Normally, a legal guardian is appointed under a will or by deed.  In this case, the parents of the child, can specifically provide in their independent or mutual wills, that when they pass on, a close family friend or relative, will be appointed as the legal guardian of their minor child.  If there is no will or deed appointing a legal guardian, a person, who may not be a relative may apply to the Family Justice Court to be appointed as a legal guardian.  Whether you are a legal guardian appointed under the will or by the Family Justice Court, you need not be a relative or parent of the child but must reside locally in Singapore.  The court-appointed legal guardianship is useful in a situation when both parents of the minor child are divorced, one is dead and the other is unfit to provide for the welfare of the child.  Finally, the Family Justice Court can intervene to appoint a suitable guardian to protect the interests and welfare of a child, if there is no will appointing a guardian or nobody applies to the Family Justice Court to be appointed or in the case of divorce, either parent is incapable or unfit to be a legal guardian or in the case of the death of both parents, the appointed guardian is unsuitable.

Who can adopt?

Adoption is not just a legal process.  It is a lifelong process which involves deep emotions and adjustments and often, an intergenerational journey.  A new family is created and related not by blood but by choice and love.  The applicant is usually a married couple but can include a divorcee who remarries and wants to adopt a child from the present spouse’s previous marriage.  The consent of the birth parents is required and the adoptive parents should be able to provide a conducive home environment that is in the best interests and welfare of the child.

Why you need a lawyer?

The adoption process is more rigorous and differs from that of legal guardianship and varies, depending on the child’s nationality.   You will need a lawyer to advise you and help you to file the necessary papers and documents to the Family Justice Court in both cases.  We cherish the privilege to embark on this journey with you to embrace a gift of life, a new beginning, knowing that life is not just about milestones but moments.

For further understanding, please refer to our FAQs or refer to MSF’s adoption portal:   Adopting a Singaporean or Permanent Resident child, adopting a child from the People’s Republic of China or a foreign child and adopting a step-child.  Better still, talk to us.

Call us at 64352933 or fill in the form below