How To Make The Adoption Process as Positive As Your Adoptive Relationship
A stepparent adoption is a significant and life-changing event for both the newly recognized legal parent and the child who is now their own. While the outcome of a stepparent adoption can be a profound, meaningful, and joyful one, the process itself can be fraught with legal, practical, and emotional challenges that require careful navigation by all parties. Doing so requires sensitivity and support from and for the entire family and experienced legal counsel who can guide them through the Colorado adoption process and ensure that it proceeds smoothly and without delay or avoidable problems.
If you are a parent or stepparent about to embark on an adoption journey, here are five tips for a successful proceeding and result.
Understand The Basic Legal Requirements of Colorado Stepparent Adoption
While you should not attempt to go through the Colorado stepparent adoption process without knowledgeable counsel, you should understand the following basic requirements:
- Adopting stepparent must be a resident of Colorado and of the county in which they file the Petition for Adoption.
- Adopting stepparent must be over 21 years old.
- Adopting stepparent must obtain and file the custodial parent's approval of the adoption.
- If the child to be adopted is over 12 years old, the adopting stepparent must obtain the child's consent to the adoption.
- If possible and applicable, the stepparent must obtain the non-custodial parent's consent.
- If the non-custodial parent does not consent or their whereabouts are unknown, evidence must be presented to the court showing that the non-custodial parent has abandoned the child (more information on what this evidence entails below).
- If the non-custodial parent is deceased, the death certificate must be presented to the court.
Obtain The Non-Custodial Parent's Consent, If Possible
As noted, in most cases where the non-custodial parent is still alive, their consent must be obtained before a judge will approve a stepparent adoption. That is because the adoption results in the termination of the non-custodial parent's rights to the child.
The process can be much smoother if the non-custodial parent is willing to give up their parental rights. If, however, they contest the adoption or are uncooperative, legal proceedings can become much more contentious, lengthy, and costly.
If the non-custodial parent does not consent to the stepparent adoption or cannot be found, the custodial parent and stepparent must file a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights. Under Colorado law, there are two grounds for terminating parental rights over a biological parent's objection:
- The biological parent failed to pay reasonable child support for one year or more before the filing of the petition, or
- The biological parent failed to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child for one year or more before filing the petition.
Build a Strong Stepparent-Stepchild Relationship
A solid foundation of trust and a positive relationship between the stepparent and the stepchild are essential to a successful stepparent adoption.
As is the case with any legal proceedings involving the health and well-being of a child, Colorado Courts will consider the child's best interests during adoption proceedings, and a strong bond can play a significant role in a judge's decision.
Spending quality time with your stepchild and participating in their activities will demonstrate your commitment to being a responsible and caring parent.
Gather All Necessary Documentation
Adoption involves a thorough review of your background and suitability as a parent. Gather all necessary documentation, including personal identification, financial records, references, and any other documents the court may require.
Being prepared and organized will streamline the process and reflect positively on your commitment to the child.
Have Open and Honest Communication With the Child
Adoption is an enormously big deal for a child, even if they may not fully understand the legal implications of what is happening. Have age-appropriate conversations about the process and what it means, and patiently address any questions or concerns they may have. Convey to the child that your decision to adopt them demonstrates your love and commitment to becoming a permanent part of their life.
Stepparent Adoption - Legal Acknowledgement of Your Commitment to a Child
If you are ready to begin the journey to adopt your stepchildren as your own, you have likely already demonstrated your commitment to your spouse and their children. The legal process of making those children your own solidifies this commitment to the child, your spouse, and the world at large.
Yes, there may be challenges due to your family's unique dynamics, but consulting a knowledgeable Colorado Springs family attorney who can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances can keep the process moving smoothly. The experienced Colorado Springs child custody lawyers at Perkins Law can guide you, your spouse, and your stepchild through the adoption process with respect, patience, and understanding.