The Must-Knows of Colorado Adoption

Andrew Hug
By: Andrew Hug
PublishedApr 4, 2024
8 minute read

Adoption is a life-changing decision, not just for the child, but also the parents. Colorado adoption can take on many forms. Whatever the circumstance, the process of adopting a child can feel like uncharted waters. You might be unsure of where to begin or what to expect. This article explains the basics for various types of adoption, the processes, and legal ramifications. These are the must-knows of Colorado adoption.

Bottom Line:

Adoption should be an exciting time for everyone involved, especially the parents. No matter the circumstances, an experienced family law attorney can ensure that the process goes smoothly.

In This Guide: 

Colorado Adoption 

When parents are either unable or unwilling to take care of their biological children, the law allows for someone else to step in. Colorado Revised Statute 19‑5-100.2 emphasizes the necessity of legal adoption to provide a permanent, stable home for children. The statute also notes that adoption can offer significant psychological, social, and legal benefits for a child.

Adoption allows a person to legally affirm their care of a child that is not biologically their own. In many adoptions, there’s no biological link between the adoptive parents and the child. In others, a relative, such as an aunt or grandparent, may adopt a child. These are called kinship adoptions.

Colorado adoptions are legally binding. Once the biological parents have terminated their rights to the child, they cannot take them back. Adoptions can be challenged in court, however, the success rate is extremely low. Colorado 4 Kids (Hyperlink 4) reports that more than 98 percent of legally completed adoptions remain intact.

Who Can Adopt a Child? 

Anyone 21 years old and older may proceed with a Colorado adoption. If you’re wishing to adopt, you do not need to be married or even own your own home. Your religion does not matter to the state, nor does your gender or if you already have children. Same-sex couples may also adopt a child. — Colo. Rev. Stat. 19-5-202 

Military families can adopt a child from the foster care system, even if one spouse is stationed overseas, as long as your permanent residence is in Colorado.  

Certain Crimes Prevent You From Adopting 

Convictions for some crimes can disqualify you from being able to adopt.  Individuals found guilty of violence against a spouse or a child cannot adopt a child in Colorado. These convictions are also disqualifying:

  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Assault
  • Murder

This is not a complete list. If you have a concern about a specific prior conviction, reach out for a consultation.

Common types of Colorado Adoption: 

In Colorado, there are multiple paths to 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 StatePrivate 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.

An experienced family law attorney can help guide potential parents throughout the process, no matter the adoption type.

Guardianship versus Adoption 

Adoption is legally permanent. Guardianship is temporary. Guardianship does not permanently end the biological parents’ rights to their child.

The Colorado Adoption Process 

The adoption process varies depending on what type you are pursuing. If you hope to expand your family by adopting a non-biological child, you have three options:

  1. public adoption
  2. private infant adoption
  3. international adoption

Let’s discuss each one.

Public Adoption 

Public adoptions, commonly referred to as foster care adoptions, are adoptions administered by The Colorado Department of Human Services.

Children enter foster care when their biological parents relinquished them to the local child welfare system, or when a court forcibly removed the child from an abusive or neglectful home.

Public adoptions are the least expensive. Prospective parents go through nonprofit companies, such as the Adoption Exchange, that partner with local, state, and federal governments. Parents choosing this route may be eligible to receive federal subsidies to help with associated costs.

Private Adoption 

Private adoptions, popularly referred to as infant adoption, are coordinated through for-profit or nonprofit agencies. An agency matches a prospective adopting family with a birth mother.

A 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. Therefore, private adoption is often more expensive.

International Adoption 

Overseas adoptions provide another avenue to parenthood. However, it’s a complex procedure that can be long, costly, and fraught with legal hurdles.

Prospective parents must meet legal criteria set by their state of residence, the U.S. Federal Government, and the child’s home country to be eligible for international adoption.

Complications can arise due to varying international laws which may impose additional requirements concerning the adopting parents’ age, family size, and marital duration.

Moreover, adoptive parents are often required to visit the child in their home country. They must also work with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) to secure the child’s visa.

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. They help familiarize parents with the agency’s processes, and they set expectations regarding the emotional and behavioral difficulties adopted children may experience.

A Home Study 

A home study is required in most Colorado adoptions. — C.R.S. 19-5-207 

A licensed social worker or caseworker meets with the potential family at their home to:

  • make sure the home is a safe environment for children and 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, everyone living in the home, including children and other adults, is interviewed. They touch on various personal subjects, such as a parent’s upbringing, parenting style, marital health, and work-life balance.

While this process may feel invasive, we recommend keeping 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, there is an additional requirement that the agency performing the home study be certified by The Hague Convention.

A Financial Assessment 

While you do not need to be wealthy to adopt a child, adoption agencies want to make sure the home is financially stable and that the individual or couple is economically capable of supporting a child. Therefore, individuals or couples who wish to adopt must undergo a financial check.

Tax returns and financial statements may be requested during the home study process.

Medical Histories 

Both mental and physical medical assessments are required of the parents.

While existing medical conditions does not necessarily rule out a prospective adoptive parent, the caseworker may factor that in when deciding potential matches for a child.

Six-month Waiting Period 

Colorado law requires you to wait six months before you can finalize an adoption. The waiting period begins the day you take custody of a child.

The purpose of this rule is to ensure the placement is a good fit for everyone involved.

The Process for Stepparent Adoptions 

When a natural parent dies or fails to take responsibility for their child, a stepparent can legally adopt the child.

Colorado requires that the child’s biological parent and stepparent be legally married. Then it’s a two-step process:

  • 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 (if living) and, if the child is over the age of 12, by the child.  — C.R.S. 19-5-203(2) 

Getting Consent 

Family dynamics vary, making it difficult to obtain consent from both biological parents for stepparent adoption. Stepparents have three consent options:

  1. The non-custodial parent voluntarily signs the consent form, relinquishing their parental rights.
  2. Should the non-custodial parent refuse to sign, their parental rights can be involuntarily terminated on legal grounds, such as proving a year of abandonment or lack of financial support.
  3. If the non-custodial parent is missing, publishing a notice in the local newspaper serves as notification evidence at the hearing.

Once all forms have been completed and submitted to the county court in which the family resides, a hearing date will be set. The court will make an official decision then.

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.

The Process for Grandparent/Kinship Adoptions 

Often, grandparents or relatives care for young children but lack legal rights. This can complicate school enrollment, medical decisions, and financial aid.

Legal solutions like custody, guardianship, or adoption can resolve these issues. However, custody and guardianship are temporary, with parents still retaining some rights. For a permanent solution, especially if the parent is unfit, a kinship adoption might be best.

When a Grandparent/Kinship Adoption is Necessary 

The state prefers placing children with relatives over a state foster home if biological parents can’t provide the care and support they need.

Kinship adoption may be suitable if the:

  • biological parents or guardians have died.
  • parents consent to adoption or give up their rights.
  • state finds the child is unsafe with their parents.
  • parents abandoned the child at least a year ago.

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
  • parent(s) have failed to sufficiently provide support for one year or more
  • party seeking kinship adoption has had legal custody of the child for a year or more

C.R.S. 19-5-203 (1) (j) 

Note: Grandparent/Kinship adoptions can offer greater financial stability if the court orders the biological parents to pay child support. This is typically a grandparents’ rights issue.

Adult Adoptions

Adult adoption is a quick way to legally establish a parent-child relationship for inheritance rights. No formal hearing is required, and the biological parent is not notified. The process involves filing paperwork with the local court where the adopter resides.

The adult adoption process is usually much quicker and can be completed within 90 days. In fact, a formal hearing is not even required, but one can be requested.

To adopt someone as an adult, you need to submit the necessary paperwork to the local court where the adopter or the person being adopted lives. The biological parent doesn’t need to be notified because their rights won’t be affected. — C.R.S. 14-1-101

Adoption Reversals 

A request to annul an adoption is rare. However, Colorado law allows a window of 91 days for a final adoption decree to be challenged. Any of the parties involved (adopted child, adopted parents, or biological parents) can request an annulment for the following reasons:

  • The biological parents are seeking to regain parental rights,
  • the adoptive parents are unable to care for the child or the relationship has deteriorated, or
  • the adopted child seeks emancipation due to inheritance issues or strained adoptive parent-child relationship.
What if Too Much Time Has Passed? 

Once the 91-day window has closed, a legal adoption decree cannot be challenged unless:

  • clear and convincing evidence proves it is not in the best interests of the child, or
  • proper procedures were not followed during the original hearing.

C.R.S. 19-5-214 

Fraud or failure to give proper notification to the biological parent are examples of procedural defects.

Note: Annulment is not possible for international adoption. U.S. courts have no authority to annul an order from a different country.

Why You Should Hire a Colorado Adoption Attorney 

State rules versus local court rules can complicate things. In Colorado, adoptions are governed by the Children’s Code statutes, 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. A court can even require the use of its own forms.

An attorney can provide insight and stability during an otherwise complex situation.

The Totality of Circumstance 

In cases where a biological parent contests an adoption, the court considers the totality of circumstances. The court takes into account all relevant factors, allowing the biological parent to present their case.

For example: Proving abandonment can be challenging for a stepparent if the non-custodial parent won’t surrender their rights to the child. It requires evidence that the biological parent intentionally left the child and did not intend to return.

In such a case, you’d need an experienced family law attorney to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.

Importance of Biological Parents 

Colorado law dictates that biological parents have a fundamental liberty interest in the care of their children. This leads to the presumption that a child’s best interests are furthered by a fit natural parent.

This means a court will always try to protect the biological parent-child bond. Natural parents begin contested adoption cases with this added leverage.

It is also paramount that an adoptive parent follows all procedures, including the completing and submitting of paperwork. Otherwise, the biological parent has an argument for annulment or reversal on grounds of procedural defects.

Connect with a Colorado Adoption Attorney 

Whether you need help initiating an adoption or resolving issues along the way, our family law attorneys know the legal procedures to build the strongest case for your circumstances.  Ensure your Colorado adoption goes smoothly. Call 303-688-0944 to set up an initial case assessment.

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