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What legal authority do I have over my stepchild?

As a stepparent, you face a very difficult task when it comes to helping to raise the children of your spouse. Legally speaking, you may face difficulty asserting your rights to make parenting decisions, even if the child in question lives in your home most or all of the time. If you have concerns about how to navigate this delicate issue, don't hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney to review your circumstances and identify a strong strategy for moving forward.

Kentucky is not currently one of the few states that recognizes third-parent adoption. If you do wish to adopt your spouse's child and the child's other biological parent is still alive, you probably have to get the other parent to give up his or her legal claim to the child. This is a difficult and lengthy process, and one that may cause more strain on your relationship than is wise. If you do want to pursue this option, be sure to do so carefully and cautiously.

A more common approach, and usually one that causes fewer conflicts, is to draft a parenting agreement that involves the duties and privileges of a stepparent. These agreements typically end up being a variation of a standard power of attorney agreement, where the stepparent has a certain degree of autonomy to make a limited number of decisions either at his or her discretion or in a defined set of circumstances. These agreements are generally useful because they allow both biological parents to retain parentage rights while giving a stepparent a defined role in the upbringing of the child he or she loves.

Source: Findlaw, "Can Stepparents Make Legal Decisions for a Stepchild?," accessed Aug. 25, 2017

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