Taking the “Step” Out of “Stepparent”

You don’t have to be a birth parent in order to serve as a parental figure in the life of a child. We see this every day in communities all over the country in the form of grandparents, aunts and uncles, mentors, coaches, teachers, older siblings, and yes, stepparents who serve as confidants, providers, disciplinarians, supporters, and so much more.  

The role of the stepparent is not always an easy one—to step into a child’s life and likely precipitate major changes in their world, potentially even being viewed as an intruder or an unwanted “replacement” for an absent birth parent at first. But oftentimes over time the stepparent role evolves into no less than that of a birth mother or father to their stepchildren, and many stepparents want their legal role in the life of that child to reflect this development.

And whether the stepparent has been accepted by the child as a parental figure, many birth parents may want their new spouse to have the legal right to make decisions on behalf of their child or children. In such cases, a stepparent adoption is often the best course of action.

Unlike a traditional adoption of a child, stepparent adoptions in Colorado are generally a relatively efficient and simple process—assuming certain criteria are met.

In order for a stepparent to adopt their spouse’s child, the noncustodial parent cannot have provided support for the child and must have abandoned the child for a minimum period of one year. If the child’s custodial parent agrees, and the noncustodial parent does not object, then one can generally expect a relatively expeditious process. This is also true if the noncustodial parent has passed away. Additionally, the child must have resided in Colorado for at least six months.

You will file a Petition for Adoption, which will include notifying the child’s noncustodial birth parent. You must obtain consent from both the custodial and noncustodial parent in order to move forward. Children over the age of 12 will also be required to consent. Finally, you will have to submit to a criminal background check conducted by local law enforcement.

If your Petition for Adoption meets the necessary requirements and the courts grant the petition, they will issue an order granting you parental rights over the child and terminating the parental rights of the noncustodial biological parent. At this point, for all intents and purposes, you will be considered by the state of Colorado to be the legal parent of the child, affording you all the same rights and responsibilities inherent in being a biological parent.

Complications may arise when the noncustodial parent attempts to prevent the adoption or refuses to provide consent. In such cases, it is essential that you enlist the services of a skilled Colorado family law attorney who is well-equipped to handle all aspects of the adoption process. If you are considering a stepparent adoption, please do not hesitate to contact the law office of Hulbert & Associates today to discuss your options.  

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Written by Lori Hulbert

Together the attorneys of the firm have nearly 30 years of experience in the fields of estate planning, estate and trust administration, estate and trust litigation, guardianships and conservatorships and civil litigation.