Stepparents often play a very important role in the lives of their stepchildren. In some cases, the role becomes fully parental. When this happens, and the child’s original, biological or adoptive parent is no longer taking responsibility for the support of their child, stepparent adoption makes sense.
If you are a stepparent in this position, here are the things you need to know.
What Stepparent Adoption Means
Before proceeding with stepparent adoption, all parties involved should understand what the results of the process will mean:
- The parent giving up rights does so permanently.
- The adoptive parent gains full legal custody of the child.
- The parent giving up rights loses any claim to visitation or participation in decisions impacting the child.
- The adoptive parent and their spouse give up any rights to pursue future support from the other parent.
When Stepparent Adoption Can Occur
When there is a biological parent still alive, those parental rights must be forfeited in order for the stepparent to begin the adoption process. There are two types of forfeiture:
- Voluntary: the biological parent decides that she is not able to appropriately provide for and/or support the child. The biological parent gives up their rights to the new adoptive parent.
- Involuntary: this relinquishment takes longer and always involves the courts. The parent is deemed unfit for a variety of reasons - abandonment, abuse, serious mental illness, incarceration without possibility of parole for at least six years, etc.
Obviously, if the biological parent is deceased, neither of the above is a factor.
Requirements of The Adoptive Stepparent
Before the adoption process can begin, the potential adoptive parent must meet the following criteria:
- Must be 21 years of age.
- Must undergo a criminal background check.
- Must prove that the relinquishing parent consents to the adoption or has had parental rights removed by the court.
- Obviously, the custodial parent (the spouse of the petitioner) must consent.
- Must complete and file a petition to adopt the child.
It is important to note here that if the child to be adopted is over the age of 12, that child will also have to agree to the stepparent adoption.
Expedited Stepparent Adoption
The stepparent adoption process can be expedited. This means it can be completed in less time than standard adoptions. In order for this to happen, the biological parent who will be forfeiting rights must be willing to consent to the adoption, and the custodial parent must have established legal custody.
The process can also be expedited if the forfeiting parent has failed to support their child and/or has abandoned the child for a year or more. In such cases, the forfeiting parent must be notified of the pending petition for adoption and be provided a period of time during which to respond.
When a Biological Parent Refuses to Relinquish Parental Rights
The process will obviously not be expedited. It will then be the responsibility of the custodial parent to prove to the court that grounds exist for termination of parental rights. In Colorado, this means that the criteria for involuntary termination will be considered by the court in making the decision. The custodial parent must file the petition for involuntary termination.
Stepparent adoption is a major life decision. The adoptive parent is now assuming full responsibility (along with his/her spouse) for the child’s upbringing, support, education, medical care, and more.
If you are considering becoming an adoptive stepparent, you and your spouse need to understand all that this means. Consulting an attorney for adoption is the best method to begin this process. Contact our Denver Family Law Attorneys and get the help you need.