The Must-Knows of Colorado Adoption
Adoption is a life-changing decision, not just for the parents, but also for the child involved. Colorado adoption can take on many forms: a couple’s hope to expand their family; grandparents becoming the main caregiver; a stepparent who wants to legally cement their bond with a step-child; an adult who wants to adopt another adult for inheritance purposes.
Whatever the circumstance, the adopter may find themselves in uncharted waters, unsure of where to begin or what to expect.
This article explains the basic particulars of Colorado adoption. It outlines various adoption types, the processes, and some legal ramifications an adopter may face.
When parents are either unable or unwilling to take care of their biological children, Colorado statute 19‑5-100.2 dictates that adoption is a legal proceeding that is sometimes necessary to provide a permanent, stable home for children.
The statute also finds adoption can offer significant psychological, social, and legal benefits for a child.
Adoption allows a person to legally affirm their care and love of a child that is not biologically related to them. There are exceptions. For instance, grandparents may adopt a grandchild.
In Colorado, there are several types of adoption, which offer prospective parents a variety of routes to choose from.
Common types of Colorado Adoption:
- Stepparent – Stepparent adoption involves a stepparent who is legally married to the biological parent.
- Kinship – A person who wishes to adopt a family member.
- Adult – Adoption of someone who is legally considered an adult; in Colorado that is age 18.
- Second-parent – Allows unmarried couples to assume the same parental rights, popularly known as a co-parent adoption.
- Domestic vs International – Adopting a child who resides within the country versus outside the U.S.
- Open vs Closed – An open adoption is when the biological parents of the adopted child can maintain contact with the child. Closed means there will be no communication or visitation between the biological parents and child.
- Private vs State – Private adoption is when a person relinquishes their parental rights directly to the adoptive parent. Conversely, in public adoption, the state assumes parental responsibilities while a child waits to be adopted.
As exciting a time as this may be, with so many choices, varying circumstances, and unique requirements, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
Robinson & Henry’s family law attorneys can help guide potential parents throughout the process. Your adoption attorney can advise you on viable options and make sure you are legally prepared for the process.
Who Can Adopt a Child?
Anyone 21 years old and older may proceed with a Colorado adoption. Contrary to widespread belief, a person who wishes to adopt does not need to be married or own their own home.
You may adopt without regard to your age, religion, gender, or if you have any other children at home. Same-sex couples may also adopt a child.
Criminals May Not Adopt a Child
However, a person convicted of any violent crime(s) against a spouse or child is not allowed to adopt a child. These crimes include abuse, neglect, battery, sexual assault, rape, or murder is not allowed to adopt.
Colorado Adoption FAQs
Q: Does my or my spouse’s military enlistment prevent us from adopting a child?
A: Even if you are stationed here or aboard, a military family is still eligible to adopt children from the foster care system.
Q: Can the biological parents take back a child?
A: Not usually. The adoption process is legally binding. While adoptions can be challenged in court, according to the organization Colorado 4 Kids, more than 98 percent of adoptions remain unbroken.
Guardianship versus Adoption
The main difference between guardianship and adoption is that adoption is seen as legally permanent, whereas guardianship only grants temporary parental responsibility. A guardianship does not permanently relinquish the parental rights of the biological parents.
The Colorado Adoption Process
The process varies depending on what type of Colorado adoption you are pursuing. If you hope to expand your family by adopting a non-biological child, you have three options:
- public adoption
- private infant adoption
- international adoption
As already defined, public adoptions, also called foster care adoptions, are controlled by the Department of Human Services.
Children who enter foster care do so because either a parent relinquished them to the local child welfare system, or a court forcibly removed a child from an abusive or neglectful home.
These types of Colorado adoptions are the least expensive, as prospective parents go through nonprofit companies, such as the Adoption Exchange, that partner with local, state, and federal governments. If parents choose this route, they often receive federal subsidies.
In contrast, private adoption is coordinated through for-profit or nonprofit agencies.
Private adoptions are also popularly referred to as infant adoptions because they involve an agency matching an adoptive family with a birth mother.
Unlike a public adoption where the biological parent transfers their parental rights to the state, this private adoption allows for a direct transfer between the natural parents and adoptive parents.
Since these agencies are not affiliated with local or federal governments, they rely on funding from adoptive parents to operate. That means private adoption is often much more expensive.
Finally, international adoptions involve prospective parents adopting a child from outside the United States.
Because parents must fulfill legal obligations from the state in which they reside, the U.S. Federal Government, and the country from which they are adopting, there is greater potential for complications.
Depending on the country, there may be restrictions concerning the adoptive parents’ ages, family size, and length of the marriage.
Often, the parents must visit the child in their home country and work with UCIS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, on acquiring a visa for the child. That means the process for international adoptions is usually lengthier. International adoptions can cost the same or more than domestic private adoptions.
Legal Obligations When Adopting
Whichever route a person or couple chooses, there are legal obligations that must be satisfied during the process.
Some of these obligations are:
Orientation & Training Classes
Many public and private placement agencies require potential adoptive parents to attend one or more parenting classes.
These classes usually kick off the adoption process. The classes help familiarize parents with the agency’s processes, and they offer expectations in regard to common emotional and behavioral difficulties an adopted child may experience.
A Home Study
A home study is required in most Colorado adoptions.
A licensed social worker or caseworker meets with the potential family at their home.
An inspection of the home is performed for three reasons:
- to make sure the home itself is a safe environment for children and that it meets Colorado state housing codes
- evaluate the aptitude and competence of the family
- educate and prepare the family for adoption.
After the caseworker inspects the home, each individual in the home, including children and other adults, is interviewed.
Interviews can be lengthy, touching on various personal subjects, such as a parent’s upbringing, parenting style, marital health, and work-life balance.
While this process may feel invasive, our Colorado adoption attorneys recommend parents keep a pleasant demeanor during the home study. Prospective adoptive parents have been denied after inappropriately arguing with each other or with the caseworker.
Note: if you are pursuing international adoption, an agency that is certified by The Hague Convention can only perform a home study.
A Financial Check
Individuals or couples who wish to adopt must undergo a financial check.
While you do not need to be wealthy to adopt a child, authorities want to make sure the home is financially stable and that a couple is economically capable of rearing a child.
Tax returns and financial statements may be requested during the home study process.
Both mental and physical medical assessments are required of the parents. Prospective adoptive parents must obtain a written statement from their family doctor.
While having existing medical conditions does not necessarily rule out a person, the caseworker may factor that in when deciding if or who is a potential match.
Six-month Waiting Period
By law, all Colorado adoptions must wait a period of six months, starting from the day a parent takes over custody of a child until they can petition the courts for finalizing the adoption.
The purpose of this rule is to ensure the placement is a good fit for everyone involved.
Process for StepParent Adoptions
For stepparents who wish to make the bond with their step-child legal, adoption is an option. It may be in the child’s best interest for the stepparent to adopt their child-child when the non-custodial parent fails to take responsibility for their child.
This type of Colorado adoption requires that the biological parent and stepparent be legally married. First, the stepparent must undergo a background check. Second, a Consent of Adoption form and a Petition of Adoption form must be collected and submitted.
The Consent Forms must be signed by both biological parents and the child if the child is 12 years old or older.
There are three options a stepparent may take in order to fulfill the obligation of the Consent Form:
- The non-custodial parent willingly signs the consent form, revoking their legal responsibility to the child.
- If the non-custodial parent is unwilling to sign the consent form, legal grounds must exist to involuntarily terminate the parent-child relationship. Termination can be achieved by demonstrating the non-custodial parent’s abandonment of the child for a year or failure to financially assist them during that time.
- If the non-custodial parent cannot be found, then a notice can be submitted to the local newspaper, which can later be used as proof of notification during the official hearing.
Once all forms have been completed and submitted to the county court in which the family resides, a hearing date will be set. During that hearing, the court will make an official decision.
Note: Relinquishment of parental rights is irrevocable.
However, a parent may try to retract the order for a period of 90 days after it was made. The court will need convincing evidence that the parent gave up their rights due to fraud or duress.
Process for Grandparent Adoptions
Often, a grandparent or relative is left to look after young children in the family. When this family member assumes parental responsibilities without receiving the legal rights that go along with it, they can run into trouble with things such as school registration, medical decisions, and receiving financial help.
These types of issues can be overcome by instating either legal custody, guardianship, or kinship adoption.
Legal custody and guardianship are legally temporary. The parents of the child usually retain some rights, including visitation and the right to petition for full custody. That can leave the family member with fewer parental rights than they need.
If it is in the child’s best interest to sever the relationship with an abusive or incompetent parent and the family member is looking for a permanent solution, then adoption may be the best answer.
A grandparent or biological relative can file for adoption of related children if:
- the parent(s) have abandoned the child for one year or more
- the parent(s) have failed to sufficiently provide support for one year or more
- the party seeking kinship adoption has had legal custody of the child for a year or more
Note: Adoption can provide grandparents and other relatives greater financial stability if the court orders they should receive child support payments from the biological parents. To read further on grandparents’ rights click here.
Adult adoption is a good option for those who want to legally recognize a parent-child relationship, even after a person has legally become an adult. This option is popularly used for establishing inheritance rights, which allows for the easy transfer of property and assets to non-related individuals.
Compared to some of the other options, adult adoption is usually much quicker and can be completed in 90 days.
A formal hearing is not required, but one can be requested.
The process requires that the correct paperwork be filed with the local court, in which the adopter resides. Because this process does not affect the rights of the biological parent, they do not need to be notified of the event.
Annulment or Reversal of Adoptions
A request to annul an adoption is rare. However, Colorado law allows for the final adoption decree to be challenged for 91 days after the decree was passed.
The adopted child, adopted parents, and biological parents can file for an annulment.
There are several reasons someone may seek an adoption annulment:
- Biological parents wish to challenge the adoption to regain parental rights.
- Adoptive parents may no longer be able to care for the child, or due to increasing deterioration in the relationship may feel that neither party benefits from the adoption continuing.
- An adopted child may later in life decide to file for emancipation. This may be to regain inheritance from natural parents or to get away from a failing relationship with the adoptive parents.
If the 91-day period has already passed, Colorado statute 19-5-214 says that no adoption decree can be challenged unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the adoption is not in the best interests of the child.
Additionally, an appeal can be made on the grounds of procedural defects that occurred during the original hearing. Fraud or failure to properly notify the natural parent whose parental rights were being revoked are examples of procedural defects.
Annulment is not possible for international adoption, as U.S. courts have no authority to annul an order from a different country.
Consider Hiring a Colorado Adoption Attorney
State rules versus local court rules can complicate things. In Colorado, adoptions are governed by the Children’s Code statute, as well as Colorado Rules of Juvenile Procedure.
Despite the uniformity that these state rules may provide, each court has its own unique set of rules and procedures, even requiring the use of its own forms.
Unless you are familiar with your county court, an attorney can provide insight and stability to an otherwise complex situation.
The Totality of Circumstance
It can be difficult for a stepparent to prove abandonment when the non-custodial parent is unwilling to relinquish their right to the child.
As abandonment is a question of intent, the stepparent must prove that the biological parent left the child willfully and without intent to return.
When a court takes into account the biological parent’s intent, the court regards the totality of circumstance. That means the court looks at the whole picture. And this leaves a lot of room for the biological parent to argue their case.
Our family law attorneys are trained to regard all the evidence so that the case receives the best chance for a good result.
Importance of Biological Parents
Colorado law dictates that biological parents have a fundamental liberty interest in the care of their children.
That leads to the presumption that a child’s best interests will be furthered by a fit natural parent.
That means a court will always try to protect the biological parent-child relationship. This can give biological parents some leverage when fighting an adoption case.
Whether you are the biological parent hoping to retain parental rights, or an adoptive parent, an attorney can help you build a solid case.
It is especially paramount that an adoptive parent properly follows all rules and correctly completes and submits paperwork. Otherwise, a biological parent may claim that they weren’t properly notified or that their rights were relinquished under duress.
Connect with a Colorado Adoption Attorney
An experienced Colorado adoption attorney will be well-versed in state and local procedures. If you’re experiencing problems with adoption, our attorneys can also help you construct the best defense tailored to your case.
Adoption is an exciting time for any prospective parent. Ensure your Colorado adoption goes smoothly for everyone involved. Call 303-688-0944 to set up a free initial case assessment. You may also schedule the meeting online.