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Can stepparents make medical decisions for stepchildren?

When an Arizona parent who has a child gets remarried, the stepparent may not know whether or not they can legally consent or refuse to consent for a stepchild's medical care. In order for a minor child to have a medical procedure, a parent or guardian must give informed consent; however, stepparents generally cannot give this.

There are some exceptions to this. For example, if the stepparent legally adopted the child, they can give informed consent for medical care. Additionally, they can also give informed consent if they have become the child's legal guardian. They will need to have a signed statement that allows them to give consent kept with the child's medical records. If the stepparent does not have the authority to give consent, however, they are still obligated to obtain medical treatment for a child if it is necessary.

In the event that the stepparent is not authorized to give informed consent for medical treatment, a child can still receive emergency services such as a diagnosis or treatment for pain relief. As long as the child's life is in danger or they could face serious disability without immediate treatment, consent is considered to be "presumed" and treatment will be given.

Child custody disputes can get heated, especially if one parent gets remarried. If the other parent does not want the stepparent to have the authority to give consent for their child's medical care, a family law attorney may assist with working with the court to hammer out details, such as which family members can visit the child, what role stepparents should play in the child's upbringing and who can make medical decisions.

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