The two areas where stepparents most frequently assert their rights as parents are with respect to adoptions and visitation. While the Colorado Legislature has established the general procedures and divorce support resources for both of these actions, there are many other factors considered by the courts when reviewing a stepparent’s request.
Stepparent adoptions are a very common occurrence in the Colorado courts. In a stepparent adoption, the stepparent actually becomes a party to the action by filing the Petition for Adoption. To prevail in a stepparent adoption, you party must prove: (a) the existence of a stepparent who consents to the adoption; and (b) the voluntary or non-voluntary relinquishment of the biological parent’s relationship with the child. If the biological parent’s relinquishment is non-voluntary or contested, the Court will conduct a hearing and must find that there has been an abandonment or failure by the biological parent to support the child. At the conclusion of the proceeding, the court will enter a decree of adoption and the stepparent will be entitled to all rights, privileges and obligations for a child born in lawful wedlock.
A stepparent may also seek to establish parental rights with a child after they have divorced or separated from the child’s biological parent. Under these circumstances, the interested stepparent will file a petition for visitation in the proper court. In the Petition, the stepparent must show their relationship with the child and establish that the child has been in their physical care for the minimum time period required by statute. A stepparent can strength his or her case by showing that he or she has supplied food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities for the child’s care. After the action is started, the Court will hold a hearing and determine whether visitation rights are in the best interests of the child.