15 Kids and the Law including issues of child support, custody, and contact with the child. If the parents do not agree, either parent can petition the Probate and Family Court to have a trial before a judge who will decide who shall have custody and the parenting time the other parent shall have. The intent of the law is to treat a child born outside of a marriage as similarly as possible to a child born within a marriage. If a parent is dead, unfit, or unavailable, and the other parent is fit, that parent shall be entitled to custody. What is the legal role of the stepparent? Stepparents have no legal relationship to their spouse’s children. Though they may care for their spouse’s children as if they were their own, they do not have legal rights or responsibilities to the children. In Massachusetts the birth parent and the stepparent can petition the Probate and Family Court to allow the stepparent to adopt the birth parent’s children. The non-spouse birth parent can decide to voluntarily surrender (give up) pa- rental rights and responsibilities. The stepparent can then adopt. If the non-spouse parent does not agree to surrender parental rights, the case can go to trial. The judge then decides whether the non-custodial parent is unfit to parent the child and, if so, whether termination of that parent’s rights is in the best interest of the child. Children 12 or older must agree to the adoption by the stepparent. What is a guardian? A guardian of a minor (a person less than 18 years old) is an adult who can exercise the powers and responsibilities of a parent regarding the child’s care, education, health, and support (with some limitations). A guardian is respon- sible for the child’s day-to-day care. Families: Rights and Responsibilities 1