What is Step-Parent Adoption?

What is Step-Parent Adoption?

By James H. Delman

It’s been reported that 40% of American adults have at least one step-relative in their family – either a stepparent, step or half sibling or step child.[1] Thus, the step-parent – step-child relationship is becoming more and more common. Being a step-parent can be a challenge for even the most sensitive and caring individuals and this is exacerbated when the non-resident biological parent is not involved with the step-child(ren). That biological parent’s absence may be due to a number of reasons including death, incarceration, substance abuse or other mental illness, or simple abandonment. In most cases like this, the step-parent is contributing to the financial support of the step-child(ren) but in many cases may not have any legal rights with respect to the step-child(ren).

There are many reasons why a step-parent and his or her spouse may wish for the step-parent to adopt the step-child(ren). For example, if something were to happen to the step-parent’s spouse such as death or mental or physical disability, it greatly simplifies how the child(ren) will be dealt with. Also, where there is a strong bond between the step-parent and the step-child(ren), it can tend to legitimize the relationship between the parties in the eyes of the family and the community. A step-parent adoption is frequently desired by the step-child(ren) to satisfy their need for a feeling of permanence and belonging. This can be especially true where the parents have had their own biological children after the remarriage.

By the same token, a step-parent adoption comes with legal implications as well. For example, if subsequent to the adoption, the parents divorce, the adoptive parent may be obligated to pay child support. Likewise, the adoptive parent could be awarded primary custody and the biological parent-spouse could become obligated for child support.

In Colorado, a child can only have two legal parents. Thus, the non-resident parent’s legal relationship with the child(ren) must be terminated before the step-parent adoption can be granted. If the non-resident parent is living, the step-parent must petition the Court for termination. Naturally, such termination also requires the consent of the resident biological parent[2] and of the child(ren) if he or she is over the age of 12.[3]

There are additional procedural matters involved, such as providing notice to the absent biological parent, etc., and therefore the assistance of an attorney can be invaluable in guiding a prospective adoptive parent through the legal process.

In addition to step-parent adoptions, Colorado recognizes kinship adoptions,[4] custodial adoptions[5] and second-parent adoptions.[6] Each of these types of adoption has its own requirements and procedures.

The attorneys at Woody Law Firm have successfully handled numerous step-parent and other adoptions and can be available to advise and assist you if you are desirous of pursuing an adoption. Please call 303-968-1711 to schedule your free consultation today!

Mr. Delman is Of Counsel to Woody Law Firm. He brings to Woody Law Firm a wealth of family law experience spanning 25 years, inlcuding work in the areas of divorce, child custody, adoption, and dependency & neglect. Call today to schedule your consultation with Mr. Delman.

[1] Pew Social & Demographic Trends Survey (October 1-21, 2010).

[2] C.R.S. §19-5-203(1)(d)(II).

[3] C.R.S. §19-5-203(2).

[4] Kinship adoptions address the situation where a relative desires to adopt a child. C.R.S. § 19-5-203(1)(j).

[5] Custodial adoptions address the situation where a legal custodian or guardian wishes to adopt a child. C.R.S. § 19-5-203(1)(k).

[6] Second parent adoptions address a situation where there is only one legal parent and that parent consents to the adoption of the child by another party. C.R.S. § 19-5-203(1)(d.5)(I). Second parent adoptions are often utilized in the context of same sex marriages where the couple wishes for the spouse who is not the biological parent of the child to adopt the child.

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