SparkNotes Blog

Auntie SparkNotes: Should My Boyfriend Be My Legal Guardian?

Hello Auntie SparkNotes,

Let’s say there is a hypothetical scenario where a high school-age girl has been dealing with an abusive parent. However, she meets a guy who’s in uni and is really sweet and caring, and they start dating. As they become closer, he learns about what has happened, and with his emotional and even financial help, she gets out of the situation.

She has other friends who she’s pretty close to, but none who she is comfortable enough to tell what has happened. She’s basically alone in the world, except for him. She is given the offer to either go into foster care, or because he is technically old enough, for whatever reason, he could be her legal guardian. Keep in mind they’re still dating, though they haven’t really told anyone. Should he become her legal guardian, and should they end their relationship if he does? They both really really really like each other, but that dynamic probably wouldn’t work out. Or should she go into foster care, with the chance they’ll rarely meet?

This might sound kind of weird (it is), but yeah, that’s te gist of it.

I’ll be honest, Sparkler: weird doesn’t even quite cover it. Not only is your situation unusual, it sounds like it should be the plot of something—to the point where Auntie just spent a good twenty minutes googling around to see if one of you decided to have some fun with me by sending me a question based on one of those fabulous teen dramas on Freeform.

…But I guess the truth really is stranger than fiction, so here we are. And for the record, this hypothetical issue is something you should really discuss with your hypothetical social worker, therapist, and/or any other professionals who are there to guide you through this process—who not only have access to more information about your and your situation than I do, but who have the experience and expertise to tell you how well your decision, whatever it is, is likely to work out… you know, hypothetically.

That said, since you’re here, this is my take (and also the point at which I’m gonna stop pretending this is just a hypothetical, since it quite clearly is not):

Your boyfriend is a great guy, and a great ally.
Please don’t mess with a good thing by making him your de facto substitute dad.

And really, sweet pea, there are so many reasons why that’s a bad idea, but here’s the most important one: entering foster care, as crappy and scary as that may be, is your chance to move forward and gain a supportive network that’s bigger than just one person. And as great as it is that your boyfriend was able to be your lifeline out of an abusive home, both you and he deserve some relief from the stress that puts on your relationship—and neither one of you deserves the burden of having to renegotiate that relationship, raging romantic feelings and all, because he’s become your legal guardian. You’re right: if you took that path, you’d have to break up… and then you’d have to share a roof and a bathroom and a kitchen table, with no space to work through your feelings and move on, and do it without falling into each other’s arms. Or beds.

Not only does that sound virtually impossible, it sounds like an enormous burden to manage at a moment when you’ve got more than enough on your plate. Is that what you need right now?

I would gently suggest that it’s not. I would also gently suggest that where a guardianship would make things complicated and almost definitely necessitate calling it quits on dating, going into foster care presumably allows you to continue seeing each other, even if it’s not as often as you’d both like.

In short, there’s one option here that seems vastly more likely to give you the best shot at a happy, healthy, successful path out of your abusive parents’ home—and one that seems like it’ll just make a mess. So from the perspective of an uninvolved person with no knowledge of the situation’s intricacies, the better choice seems pretty obvious.

But it’s still yours to make! And hopefully, it’s yours to make with the help of some supportive, informed, experienced people who can help you weather this transition and manage whatever comes next. But whatever you choose, please do write back and tell us how this, er, hypothetical situation of yours turns out. Because hypothetically, we’d like to know that you’re doing okay.

Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.