The relationship between a stepparent and their stepchild can be very influential on the stepchild’s development. For some children, their stepparent has been with them longer and has put more effort into raising them than their biological parent has. In these cases, a stepparent might consider adopting their stepchild. Adoption can be a complicated process, and there are many requirements that need to be satisfied for a stepparent to be eligible for the responsibility. How does the process work in Colorado?
Things That Change After Adoption
A stepparent should consider what will change and what the child may lose before committing to adopting their stepchild. The adoption of a stepchild comes with some legal implications, and they should be discussed to ensure that there won’t be legal hiccups later one. The legal implications of stepchild adoption include:
- The adoptive stepparent gains complete legal custody of the stepchild alongside their spouse
- The adoptive stepparent and their spouse give up their right to seek financial support from the biological parent
- The biological parent will forfeit all of their parental rights
- The biological parent will no longer be able to participate in making decisions about the child’s life, health, residence, etc.
- The biological parent will no longer have a legal claim to visitation with the child
Prerequisites Of Adopting a Stepchild
The stepparent who plans to adopt their stepchild has to meet certain requirements to be eligible. Parenting is a big responsibility, and the courts want to ensure they only entrust people with the responsibility if they can handle it. The requirements for stepchild adoption in Colorado include:
- The stepparent must be 21 years of age or older
- The stepparent must submit to a background check, which must come back clear
- The stepparent and their spouse must prove that the biological parent approves of the adoption and forfeiture of parental rights. If they refuse to provide that approval, the court can terminate their rights involuntarily, but only if they are found to be unfit
- The stepparent must prove that their spouse or the custodial biological parent approves of the adoption
- The child must approve of the adoption as well, but only if they are 12 years old or older
- The stepparent must file a formal Petition for Adoption.
A stepparent who has been convicted of felony crimes involving child abuse, unlawful sexual behavior, or violence cannot adopt their stepchild. This is because the court will always put the best interests of the child first when an adoption case is brought before them. Some factors the court will consider when determining what is in the best interest of the child include:
- The wishes of each parent, within reason
- The wishes of the child if the court determines the child is mature enough to express them independently
- The quality of the relationships between the child and each parent
- How the adoption will impact the child’s home life and social life
- The physical and mental wellness of each party (stepparent, custodial parent, child)
- Whether the stepparent can cooperate and make joint decisions with the custodial parent
- Whether the stepparent can put the needs of the child ahead of their own
The Adoption Hearing
Once a stepparent has filed a Petition for Adoption and has passed the relevant background checks, an adoption hearing will be scheduled. This hearing is an opportunity for the stepparent and their legal team to prove to the courts that all of the necessary steps have been taken. They will also have to prove that all of the appropriate parties have given their consent to the adoption.
Lastly, they will have to prove to the courts that being adopted by their stepparent is in the best interests of the child. If the court decides that it is, they will certify the adoption. The court will assist in changing the child’s last name to that of the stepparent if the adoption is certified and the parents want to do so. After the hearing is finished, the parents can apply for a new birth certificate for the child. This new certificate will show the child’s revised last name. It will also have the stepparent listed as the child’s legal guardian.
Certification of the adoption will give the stepparent full legal responsibility for their stepchild. They will have the same parental rights as if they were their biological parent.
What Could Cause an Adoption Petition to Be Denied?
The courts take adoption cases extremely seriously, as they are placing a child in someone’s care and giving that person rights over the child. Therefore, an adoption petition is likely to be denied if any of the background checks come back showing convictions for crimes that may color the way someone parents. For example, any convictions for violent crimes will cause a petition to be denied because the courts do not want to place a child in a potentially dangerous living situation.
Stepparents under the age of 21 may adopt their stepchildren if they have explicit permission from the court to begin the process. If they begin the process without that permission, their petition is likely to be denied. The court is also likely to deny a petition if any aspect of it has been filed incorrectly or incompletely. A denial based on missing information might be reversed if that information is provided. An experienced family law attorney can help a stepparent make sure they are completing all of the requirements of the adoption process completely and accurately.
Preparing a Child for Adoption
The child is arguably the most important aspect of any adoption. Even though most stepchildren know their stepparent well prior to being adopted, there are still some steps that can be taken to prepare them. Keeping them informed can make the process simpler, especially if they will be asked to speak about their stepparent before a judge. Some ways to help and include the child being adopted are:
- Explain how it works: Parents should consider explaining the process of adoption to the child. This can make them feel as though they are a part of the process. It can also help them see why the process is important how they will benefit from it.
- Listen to them: It is important for parents caring for a child being adopted to listen to them when they express concerns. Some children may worry that the adoption won’t work out or may feel abandoned by their biological parent. Parents should create a safe space for the child and consider counseling if they are having a difficult time.
- Reassure them: It is normal for a child to experience complicated emotions during the adoption process. Parents should do their best to reassure them and let them know their feelings are valid.
- Find support: Children going through the adoption process may benefit from adoption support groups. These groups can help them foster community with other children that have similar experiences.
Contact Us for Help
If you’re planning to adopt your stepchild and need legal counsel, reach out to the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C. today. We are proud to represent stepparents who want to adopt their stepchildren. Our firm is experienced in both contested and uncontested stepparent adoptions. Our passion for helping families grow means we will work tirelessly on your behalf. Reach out at (719) 212-4227 or online for a free initial consultation today.