For many Colorado couples, adoption provides an answer to the question of how they will have a family. For others, a kinship adoption can help keep the family together after something has happened to the child’s parents (or their parental rights). But the process can be intimidating. Here’s what would-be parents need to know before starting a Colorado adoption.
This blog post will review Colorado adoption law. It will explain how guardians, third-party custodians, and step-parents can adopt the children in their care. It will review the adoption process and discuss whether you need to go through an adoption agency, or simply hire an adoption attorney to help you bring your family together.
What is Adoption?
A Colorado adoption replaces a child’s natural, biological parents with one or more other people who legally take on the role of parent. Adoption is permanent. It involves terminating the birth parent’s rights and replacing them with the adoptive parent. That means that birth parents are not allowed to return years later and claim they have turned their life around and want their children back.
That’s what makes adoption different from a guardianship or legal custodian situation. In those cases, the biological parent’s rights and responsibilities are not terminated (though they may be temporarily suspended). If, down the road, the parent satisfies all the court’s expectations, he or she may be allowed to fight to get their children back.
Who Can Adopt a Child under Colorado Adoption Law?
Colorado law allows for anyone over age 21 can adopt a child. Even individuals under 21 can adopt with special court permission. The state places no restrictions on adoption based on:
- Sexual orientation,
- Gender identity or expression,
- Physical ability,
- Veteran status,
- Military obligations
- Marital status (though if you are married, your spouse will need to join you in the adoption).
Instead, the focus is on whether you will be able to provide a good home to the adopted child. That is determined through a background check and family assessment or home study. If you or an adult living in your home have been convicted of certain child-related or domestic violence crimes, you will not be allowed to adopt.
Can You Adopt a Family Member?
Colorado adoption law includes options for step-parents and family members to adopt children in their households. For step-parents, your spouse must be the custodial parent of the child and must agree to the adoption. Then you must either get the non-custodial parent’s consent, or demonstrate that he or she has abandoned the child or failed to provide support to the child for a year or more.
“Kinship Adoption” involves close relatives who have lived with a child for one year or more, including:
- Siblings and half-siblings
- Aunts and uncles
- First cousins
These cases often happen privately, without an adoption agency getting involved. Hiring a private adoption attorney can help make sure the process goes smoothly and all the necessary paperwork is completed correctly and on time.
Will You Need a Background Check or Home Study?
Colorado law wants to be certain children are placed in safe homes. Would-be parents using an agency or completing a Kinship Adoption are required to complete a family assessment or home study. This involves a social worker from a licensed state placement agency visiting your home. The social worker will interview you and help you get ready for the adoption. He or she will also evaluate the fitness of your home. In some Kinship Adoption cases, you may be able to ask the court to waive the home study based on your close family connection to the child.
As part of the adoption process, you and every adult living in your home will also have to complete three background checks:
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
- FBI Fingerprint Identification
- Colorado Department of Human Services TRAILS background check
These are up to the would-be parents to complete within 90 days before filing their adoption petition. Your private adoption attorney can help you schedule and complete the background checks, and be sure the reports end up in the right place.
What Are Your Rights When the Adoption is Over?
Once the adoption is complete and a Colorado court has issued an adoption order, you are the parent. You have all the same rights and responsibilities related to the child as if you had been there at birth. You will be able to enroll the child in school, take him or her on vacations, get a passport, and move freely as your needs require. Your child will also be able to inherit from you when you pass away. One special right given to adoptive parents is the right to obtain a new birth certificate for the child. After the adoption is complete, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will issue your child a new birth certificate with your name (and your spouse’s name in joint adoptions or step-parent adoptions). You may also ask that the child’s name be changed to reflect your new family.
Do You Need an Agency for Your Adoption?
A licensed adoption agency will be involved in most Colorado adoption cases. If you are adopting an unrelated child, the agency will oversee your certification as a foster parent and complete the family assessment and home study. Even in Kinship Adoption cases, a social worker may become involved to complete the home study. Any time an agency is involved there is also an adoption attorney on your case. But depending on the company policy, you may not get to choose who represents you.
However, many Kinship Adoptions and all Step-Parent Adoptions can be completed without paying an agency. Since you already have a connection to the child, you may be able to simply hire an adoption attorney yourself to help you with the forms.
Adoption can be a happy process that brings families together. But it can also be frustrating. At Aviso Law, LLC, our family law lawyers know how to make the process easy. We are here to serve you and your family during the adoption process, to make sure everything is done properly and keep your family together. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.