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Stepparents and legal authority over stepchildren

If you are a stepparent, you may feel that you are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to making decisions about raising the child you love. Even if you operate as the father or mother of child from day to day, his or her biological parents still retain the lion's share of legal authority over the parenting decisions.

In some states, stepparents can adopt a child as a third parent while the two biological parents both retain their rights. However, Mississippi is not one of these states. If you wish to adopt your stepchild, the other biological parent who is not your spouse must either pass away or voluntarily forfeit his or her rights as a parent. This is certainly achievable, but is rarely a simple path to choose, and often brings a host of relational complications within the family.

A simpler, less intrusive compromise may be to establish a parenting agreement that gives you some degree of legal authority in certain day-to-day issues, or in extreme circumstances. This type of agreement is essentially a variation on a standard power of attorney that grants you a bit of limited authority without necessarily reducing the authority and privileges of the other parents.

If you want to pursue legal authority around the care and upbringing of your stepchild, you can consult with an experienced family law attorney. Professional legal guidance can help you review the specifics of your particular situation and determine a strong strategy for establishing the legal relationship you want with the child you care for and love.

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

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