• calendar17th Sep 23 10:00 pm
  • userJamie

Stepparent Adoption Rights

The Stepfamily Foundation states that more than 50% of marriages end in divorce and 1,300 new stepfamilies form each day. With statistics like that, it is not unreasonable to think that there are many stepparents who may find themselves wanting to cement their relationship with their stepchildren. Even if you are not concerned about continuing a relationship with your stepchildren after a possible divorce, you may be thinking about the unfortunate possibility that your spouse could die and, without legal documentation, you could be forced to give the stepchildren you love back to a biological parent who may not allow you to continue a relationship with them. Stepparent adoption has become very common and allows stepparents to ensure they will continue to have a parent-child relationship with their stepchildren permanently, regardless of what may happen. If you are considering adopting your stepchild, the experienced family law attorneys with Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to assist you. You can schedule a consultation by calling (720) 593-6442.

What Are the Adoption Laws?

There are several different laws regarding adoption in Colorado. The basic requirements to adopt are that the individual or individuals wishing to adopt must be over 21 years of age, or must seek and receive special permission from the court if they are under 21, and must pass three background checks. Married couples must file to adopt jointly, while a single person can adopt alone.

More specific laws regarding adoption in Colorado include:

  • A stepparent can adopt their stepchild if the custodial parent agrees and the non-custodial parent consents or has abandoned the child.
  • A kinship adoption can occur when a grandparent, sibling, half-sibling, aunt, uncle, or first cousin has had the child living with them for one year or more and the biological parents either consent or have abandoned the child.
  • A custodial adoption takes place when a non-family member gets legal custody over the child and the birth parents have abandoned the child for one year or more and failed to provide reasonable support for the child for one year or more.

What Are the Rights of Stepparents?

Stepparents have relatively few rights when it comes to their stepchildren, particularly in the event that their spouse dies or the couple divorces. However, the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act does give them some legal recourse. Stepparents may request custody of a stepchild if the child is not under the care of either biological parent, or if the stepparent has had care of the child for at least six months. Stepparents can also ask for visitation privileges from a trial court when the stepparent has acted in loco parentis, which means in the place of a parent.

Even though the law does give stepparents these rights to request custody or visitation, it may be difficult to get custody or visitation. Visitation is typically easier to get than custody. Before granting a stepparent either custody or visitation, the court will consider:

  • How much the stepparent participated in the child’s life
  • The stepparent’s level of significance in the child’s life
  • How long the stepparent has acted in place of the child’s mother or father
  • Emotional ties between the child and stepparent
  • Whether the child has been financially dependent on the stepparent
  • Whether the child would be adversely affected by the stepparent’s absence

What Is the Basic Process for Stepparent Adoption?

The stepparent adoption process has several steps, which may be grouped into two broad stages, with the second stage contingent upon successful completion of the first. This first part consists of background checks; only after passing the required background checks may a stepparent move to the second part, the actual process of filing for adoption.

Background Checks

Before a stepparent can even begin to file the paperwork for adoption, they must pass three background checks. These background checks typically take approximately 60-90 days to complete. Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to assist you with these background checks. They include:

Child Abuse and Neglect Records (CDHS TRAILS)

In addition to passing the background checks, stepparents cannot have very specific felony convictions on their criminal record. These convictions include:

  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Any kind of crime against a child
  • Spousal abuse
  • Violating a protection order
  • Any domestic violence crime
  • Any crime that involves violence, sexual assault, rape, or homicide
  • Any felony conviction involving physical assault or battery in the past five years
  • Any felony drug conviction within the last five years

Adoption Process

Once the background checks have been passed, as long as the stepparent has been a Colorado resident for at least six months and is a resident of the county in which the adoption will be filed, they are ready to begin the process.

If all goes smoothly, the stepparent adoption process is typically:

  • File the adoption petition with the Colorado Courts
  • File spouse’s (custodial parent) approval of the adoption
  • If the child who is being adopted is 12 years or older, get the child’s consent to the adoption
  • Get and file non-custodial parent’s consent or show they have abandoned the child
  • Serve the pleadings on non-custodial parent, who now has 35 days to respond
  • Attend a court-scheduled hearing on termination of parental rights
  • If the non-custodial parent’s rights are terminated, they will have 49 days to appeal

If there is no appeal, or the non-custodial parent loses the appeal, another hearing takes place to finalize the adoption. This makes the stepparent the child’s legal parent with all the same parenting rights and obligations as a biological parent, as well as giving the stepchild the same rights as a biological child to inherit the stepparent’s estate.

How Long Do You Have To Be Married for a Stepparent Adoption?

Colorado does not have a requirement for how long a couple must be married before a stepparent adoption can occur. The only requirement Colorado has is that the couple must be legally married. As long as the basic requirements of residency, age, and a clean background check with none of the listed felony convictions are met, a couple could file and begin the process on their wedding day or any day after that.

Can My Stepdad Adopt Me Without My Dad’s Permission?

There is no simple answer to this question. A stepparent may adopt without the biological parent’s permission under certain circumstances, but the outcome in such cases is not guaranteed. If a child’s biological parent does not consent to the stepparent adoption, the stepparent can attempt to adopt the child by proving the biological parent has abandoned the child.

The stepparent can attempt to prove this abandonment by proving either:

  • A failure by the biological parent to pay reasonable child support for one year or more prior to filing for the adoption
  • The biological parent’s failure to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child for one year or more before filing for the adoption

If the stepparent can prove abandonment, the court may terminate the biological parent’s parental rights. If the biological parent does not appeal this termination or loses the appeal, then the stepparent can adopt the stepchild without the biological parent’s permission.

Are You Ready To Adopt Your Stepchild?

The bond between a stepparent and their stepchild can be as strong and loving as that between a biological parent and their child. The legal ties do not exist without intentional work to create them. If you have decided you are ready to show your commitment and seek a legal recognition of the relationship between you and your stepchild with a Denver stepparent adoption, Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help. Schedule a consultation today by calling (720) 593-6442 to learn more about your legal rights.