Do you remember that touching scene in an early episode of “The Brady Bunch,” where Carol tells Bobby that “the only steps in this house are those, and they lead right up to your bedroom?” It was such a graceful way of explaining that Mike and Carol had adopted each other’s children as their own, and that there were to be no step-parents or step-siblings in the blended Brady household.
Step-parent adoption is a relatively (ahem) common choice amongst today’s blended families as well, with about 50,000 adoptions made official annually. If appropriate given the birth parents’ situation, it can be a truly wonderful way of bringing a family together. Unlike international or domestic adoptions, step-parents do not need to complete parenting classes, undergo a home study, or shell out thousands of dollars to take over guardianship of a child. In Colorado, a step-parent may adopt a spouse’s children if:
* The other birth parent has abandoned the child for one year or more, or has failed to support the child for one year or more
* The other birth parent is deceased AND the surviving grandparents do not assert their own rights for guardianship
* The other birth parent willingly relinquishes his/her role in court, meaning he/she will no longer be financially responsible for the child or have a right to parenting time with the child
* Any children aged 12 and older give their own consent to be adopted.
Note that if the birth father is unknown or not listed on the birth certificate, you will still need to make a reasonable effort to contact any possible candidates in order to properly terminate his parental rights.
Once an adoption petition is approved, it takes about four weeks for a new birth certificate listing the step-parent as the official custodial parent to be issued. The step-parent is then legally and financially responsible for the child, while the child becomes entitled to inheritance rights and benefits on behalf of the step-parent. In other words, adopting a step-child reaffirms your commitment to their well-being and offers a reassuring sense of stability to your family.
Finally, same-sex couples who are in a recognized civil union before the birth of their child no longer need to go through this step-parent adoption process; Colorado now lists both mothers or both fathers on the official birth certificate from the very beginning.
Terminating the rights of the birth parent is often a delicate and complex process; please contact one of our experienced attorneys if you need help completing this, or any other step, in the adoption process. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DivorceMatters.