If you are a co-parent and want to have legal parental rights and responsibilities for your partner's child, a co-parenting agreement is a legal document that you can create to clearly explain the rights and responsibilities of each parent where a second-parent adoption is not available.
A second-parent adoption extends legal parental rights to the non-biological or non-adoptive co-parent. However, some states' laws not only restrict who may adopt a child but also ban second parent adoption. To find out if second-parent adoptions are granted in your state, see the second-parent adoptions article. If you and your partner do not have access to second-parent adoptions, a co-parenting agreement may be your best legal option.
In the co-parenting agreement, you and your partner can:
- Agree to jointly and equally share parental responsibilities by proving support and guidance to your child;
- Authorize the other to consent to medical care for your child;
- Devise a custody agreement before any separation should one occur;
- Stipulate that each partner will name the other partner as the child's guardian in his/her will.
If you are the custodial parent, you can stipulate in your will that you want your partner to become the child's guardian in the event of your death. But this stipulation is not legally binding in a court of law.