Having Custody of a Child vs. Becoming Their Guardian

For some, having custody of a minor child and being their guardian may seem like similar scenarios. However, they’re incredibly different. When it comes to caring for a child, it’s important for the adults in their lives to understand the difference between the two roles should legal matters ever arise. 

At MHPS, our family law attorneys know how important it is to protect the best interest of a child and can help if you need to seek child custody or guardianship.

Child Custody

Custody is granted to the child’s biological parents. Gaining custody of a child is necessary when the parents divorce, and it needs to be determined which parent will have certain responsibilities to care for the child. There are two different types of child custody – legal and physical custody.

  • Physical Custody – Physical custody allows a parent to spend a certain amount of time with their child. The child may live with the parent full time or may have set times when they visit the parent.
  • Legal Custody – Legal custody allows a parent to make important decisions for their child, such as matters regarding their health and schooling. 

The level of custody parents receive may also vary. In some cases, parents may have joint custody and both have equal input on the care their child receives. Some parents may have a certain extent of physical custody, but have no say in the decision-making for their child. There are also times when a parent may have sole custody of their child. In Tennessee, the court will decide which parent will receive a certain level of custody over their child. 


Guardianship may be given to an adult who isn’t a biological parent of the child. Guardians aren’t limited to only family members of the child and can be any adult who the court believes is fit to serve in this position. A guardianship for a minor child is necessary when their biological parents are absent or unable to provide proper care for them. This gives the adult legal responsibility to care for the child, such as overseeing their education. 

In some cases, the child’s parent may still maintain parental rights. In some cases, guardianships may only be temporary while a parent is unable to care for their child. A guardianship may be required when the parent is too ill to care for their child, incarcerated, or if the parent has passed away. 

Contact MHPS for Help

Every child deserves to have an adult who will care for them and have their best interests at heart. However, determining who this individual should be can be challenging. Many parents get divorced and have child custody arrangements, and other parents may not be able to fully provide the care their child needs on their own. Whatever the situation may be, the courts need to be involved to ensure children are well cared for. 

Whether you’re a parent seeking custody of your child or an adult who believes a child needs a guardian appointed, MHPS can help. Contact us today to learn more.

Ready to Get Started?

You don’t have to face a legal case alone. Get the support and guidance you need to make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of the law. Reach out today, and let’s take the first step together.