Adopting Your Stepchildren
The Effects of Stepchild Adoption
There is a form of “relative adoption” known as stepchild adoption. Adopting your stepchild may seem redundant—after all, your spouse is already legally obligated to care for your stepchild, and you may already love and care for them like a biological child anyway. However, stepchild adoption offers benefits and legal implications you may not be aware of.
To begin with, when you adopt your stepchild, you permanently become that child’s caretaker. While you assume the emotional reality of adopting the child, you also become a legal parent to that child. This means you are liable for child support in the event of a divorce, and that child is entitled to inheriting your estate. In every sense, your stepchild stops being your stepchild and is simply your son or daughter. For that reason, stepchild adoption is a profound statement of commitment to your blended family, beautiful and set in stone.
Another legal effect of a stepchild adoption is that the child’s biological parent (who is not your spouse) loses all rights and obligations regarding that child. If you are the stepmother to your husband’s child, this adoption terminates all rights and privileges the biological mother possessed. All child support owed would be forfeited, and that child would legally be yours.
WHY ADOPT YOUR STEPCHILD?
A stepchild adoption can be an incredible declaration of commitment and love. It may also be a way to legally validate an already established emotional reality. However, it can also serve a practical legal purpose. If that child’s parent—your spouse—dies, you may wish to solidify your legal relationship to your stepchild through adoption. In addition, you may want to clarify your stepchild’s ability to inherit your estate by adopting them and giving them equal legal standing with your biological children.
REquirements for adopting your stepchild.
In order to adopt your stepchild, you must first meet basic requirements. First, you must have resided within Colorado for at least six months prior to the adoption process. Second, you must be over twenty-one years of age. Finally, you must pass specific background checks that verify a lack of a criminal history for violence against spouses or children and have no violent crime felony convictions.
The Process of Adopting your Stepchild.
To be able to adopt your stepchild, there are specific steps and requirements.
- You must first complete the required fingerprint-based criminal history background check. These results must be conducted within 90 days prior to the filing of the Petition.
- You must complete the TRAILS background check which will be processed by the Colorado Department of Human Services.
- Obtain consent from the custodial parent, usually your spouse or partner.
- Obtain consent from the non-custodial parent. If the non-Custodial parent has “abandoned” the child for a year or more, the Custodial parent may file an Affidavit of Abandonment which would be filed with the completed petition packet.
- File the petition with the court and be prepared for the adoption hearing.
Once the above has been completed, and the Court signs the Final Decree of Adoption, your Harris Family Law attorney will complete a Report of Adoption, and you’ll be able to obtain a Birth Certificate with your name on it showing that you are now a legal parent of this child.
As always, The Harris Law Firm offers cost-effective legal services to guide you through the adoption process. Difficulties may arise if the child’s biological parent objects to the adoption, or complications may arise for a few other reasons. When complex situations arise, the family law attorneys at our firm are prepared to give you clarity and direction. Contact us if you have a legal question regarding your situation.