Does a Stepparent Have Any Legal Rights?

Does a Stepparent Have Any Legal Rights?There are numerous reasons why as a stepparent, you may seek to obtain visitation rights or even custody of a child. Perhaps you are a child’s primary caregiver and the other parent is absent, or maybe you have a strong relationship with a child and are unable to spend as much time with the child after the divorce of the child’s parents.

Under the law, a child’s parents have all rights to their child unless the court determines otherwise. The good news for you is that it is possible for a non-biological parent to establish visitation, child custody, or even adoption in Colorado.

Stepparents most often assert their rights as parents in two areas: visitation and adoption. Colorado law has stated general procedures for these actions, though the court considers several other factors when reviewing a stepparent’s request.

Visitation and Custody

Colorado law allows you to request visitation or custody rights of your stepchild. Of course, it can be difficult for a stepparent to legally obtain the right to spend time with someone who is not his or her natural child. The court takes numerous aspects into account when granting visitation or custody rights to a stepparent, such as:

  • Your level of significance in the life of the child
  • How much you have participated in the child’s life
  • How long you acted in place of the child’s biological parents
  • Whether the child will be negatively affected by your absence
  • The emotional ties between you and the stepchild
  • Whether the child was financially dependent on you

Most courts still follow the best interests of the child standard when determining whether a stepparent should be awarded visitation or custody. Courts examine whether a child’s life and welfare will be enhanced or improved by continuing his or her relationship with you. Such rights may be denied if there are doubts about your fitness or capabilities.

In terms of child custody, a stepparent or any other non-biological parent may have standing if the child is not under the physical care of either parent, or if the child has been in your physical care for over six months and if, no longer under your care, you file a petition seeking custody within six months of the physical care ending.

Note that after a divorce, it is often easier for stepparents to obtain visitation rights as opposed to legal custody.


If you wish to adopt the child of your spouse, you may also opt to file papers for adoption. This can be an expedited process in Colorado as compared to the conventional adoption process in the state.

The law, however, requires that the child’s nonresidential parent must have abandoned the child for a minimum of one year, and must have also failed to support the child. You may move forward with the process if these conditions are met, if the custodial parent has legal custody of the child, and if the noncustodial parent does not object to the adoption.