Being a good parent doesn’t always require a blood relation. Many step-parents play a full parental role, providing the care and guidance their step-children deserve. To make this parental role concrete and legal, step-parents often decide to adopt their step-children.
If you are a stepdad or a stepmom in Colorado and wish to legally adopt your step-child, here are the essential things you should know.
Implications Of Step-Parent Adoption
It’s important to understand what step-parent adoption means under the law. It comes with several legal implications, such as:
- As an adoptive parent, you (together with your spouse) gains full legal custody of the child.
- You and your spouse give up the right to seek future support from the forfeiting parent.
- The forfeiting parent gives up parental rights permanently.
- The forfeiting parent loses the right to participate in decision-making for the child.
- The forfeiting parent loses any claim to visitation, unless you, as the adoptive parent, voluntarily gives it to them.
If possible, you will want to discuss these implications with the forfeiting parent as well as with your spouse to ensure that the child’s life after adoption proceeds without legal issues.
Pre-requisites Of Colorado Step-Parent Adoption
Before the adoption process can begin, you need to ensure that the child’s biological parent has forfeited his or her parental rights. That parent can forfeit voluntarily, or the court can use its power to enforce an involuntary forfeiture. The latter can happen only when the biological parent is found unfit for a reason, such as in situations of abandonment, abuse, serious mental illness, or incarceration.
You will then have to satisfy certain requirements for a Colorado step-parent adoption:
- You must be at least 21 years old.
- You must undergo and clear a criminal background check.
- You must have proof that the forfeiting parent has consented to the adoption. If he or she refuses to do so, you may request the court enforce an involuntary termination of that parent’s parental rights. As mentioned above, this can only be done if there are sufficient grounds.
- You must have proof that the custodial, non-forfeiting biological parent – that is, your spouse – has consented to the adoption.
- If the child is over 12 years old, he or she must also express consent to the adoption.
- You must file a Petition for Adoption.
The Colorado Step-Parent Adoption Process
Meeting the requirements above is only winning half the battle. Once you have filed a Petition for Adoption, the court will determine whether the adoption is in the child’s best interests. It will consider factors such as family stability, the child’s emotional ties with the adoptive parent, and the child’s adjustment to the situation.
Be prepared to present proof that your adoption is best for your step-child. You will also have to attend an adoption hearing, at least in the final stage of the process. The final adoption hearing is where you will know whether your adoption petition has been approved. Once you get the court’s approval, it will then take about four weeks to get a newly-issued birth certificate for your child, specifying you as an official custodial parent.
If you have any questions or concerns about adopting your step-child, consulting a family law attorney can give you the answers you need to know.