As blended families become more and more common, you might wonder how much the legal relationship between stepchildren and stepparents matters. After all, you love your stepchildren as if they were your own. What difference can the paperwork make if you have already agreed to support these children unconditionally?

In Colorado, there are a few reasons to consider formal stepparent adoption for your stepchildren. For example, many stepparents run into obstacles when the stepchild needs medical care. Especially if there is a need for mental health treatment, the rights of a stepparent are very different than the rights of a parent. Additionally, in the tragic event that your spouse (the biological parent) dies, formal adoption can also clarify what will happen with the care and custody of the children.

Who needs to consent to a stepparent adoption?

Once you have decided to move forward with stepparent adoption, Colorado courts require that the following people consent to the adoption:

  • The biological parent
  • The child (if over 12 years old)

Colorado requires that you notify the other biological parent of the adoption because formal stepparent adoption will terminate their parental rights. There are many different family situations, however, and you should consider carefully which legal arrangement is the best for you and your children or stepchildren. A lawyer experienced with family law can help make sure you respect the rights of all the parents and caregivers in the child’s life while you navigate the details of the adoption process.

If the other biological parent has died, or if the other biological parent has abandoned the children, the court will waive the requirement to obtain his or her written consent. Abandonment means that the other biological parent has not contacted or financially supported the child in over a year.

Formally adopting stepchildren can be a wonderful way to recognize the new configuration your family has taken.