What You Need to Know About Stepparent Adoption
While the law tends to favor biological parents in matters related to child custody, there are many circumstances that result in a child losing one parent. When this happens and the custodial biological parent remarries, the new stepparent may wish to adopt the child. Stepparent adoption is a wonderful thing that helps create a legally binding relationship between the stepparent and child. After adoption, the stepparent has the same legal privileges and responsibilities as if they were the child’s biological parent.
In Colorado, adoption statutes are found in the Children’s Code.
A child may not be adopted until there is:
- An order of the court terminating the parent-child legal relationship
- An order of the court decreeing the voluntary relinquishment of the parent-child legal relationship
- Written and verified consent of the child’s court-appointed guardian when the child’s parents are deceased
- Written and verified consent of the parent in a stepparent adoption in cases where the child’s other parent is deceased, or the parent-child relationship has been legally terminated
Termination of Parental Rights
The biggest issue when pursuing stepparent adoption is terminating the rights of the other biological parent. This is necessary before a stepparent can adopt their stepchild. In some cases, the noncustodial biological parent may voluntarily relinquish their parental rights. However, when they are resistant to doing so, you may need to petition the court for a hearing to have the courts terminate their parental rights.
Stepparent Adoption in Cases of Abandonment
When a child’s parent abandons them, it can be difficult, if notimpossible, to locate the missing parent. However, this does not mean that a stepparent cannot adopt their stepchild in these situations. The remaining biological parent will need to provide their written and verified consent to the adoption as well as an affidavit or sworn testimony that the other biological parent has abandoned the child for at least one year. This method is also used in cases where the other biological parent has failed to support the child in a reasonable manner for at least a year.
After the necessary paperwork is filed, the court will issue a notice to the other parent with all pertinent information regarding the case as well as the time and place of the associated hearing. If the other parent cannot be found, the courts will issue notice in a local newspaper circulated in the county where the hearing is being held. The hearing will take place no sooner than 35 days after notice is served to the other parent.
If you are dealing with a situation in which your child’s other biological parent has abandoned the child or failed in their parental responsibilities, you should work with an experienced lawyer. The court process for stepparent adoption in these cases is complicated and the process must be followed exactly. A skilled attorney, like ours at the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C., can help you throughout the process.
Do I Need a Background Check to Adopt My Stepchild?
In Colorado, you must submit to a federal and state fingerprint-based criminal history check. This will need to be completed 90 days prior to filing for the adoption. You will also need to complete what is called a TRAILS background check through the Department of Human Services. The TRAILS background check is specifically looking for instances of child abuse or neglect. For more information on stepparent background checks, review the Colorado Judicial Branch self-help guide here.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for My Stepparent Adoption Case?
Yes. When adopting a child, you must go through several documents and processes. If you are adopting more than one stepchild, you will need to complete a set of documents for each child. Mistakes in this process can result in delays or even in the courts denying your adoption case. While you may feel like you have a straightforward adoption case, unexpected issues are not uncommon, and you will want a lawyer to help you deal with them.
At the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C. we have helped many stepparents through the adoption process and are experienced in both contested and uncontested stepparent adoptions. We are ready to use our experience to help you and your family.