Do you have a stepson or stepdaughter whom you have a strong relationship with? What happens if you and the child’s biological mother or father get divorced? What if the child’s non-custodial biological parent has been absent, while you have acted as the primary caretaker? Fortunately, even if you are not biologically related to a child, as a stepparent, you may go to court and try to obtain visitation or even custody or adoption rights with respect to the child.
Not surprisingly, it is often difficult for a stepparent to obtain the legal right to exercise parenting time with a child who is not his or her natural child. Colorado courts will consider several factors when granting visitation or custody rights to a stepparent, including:
- The level of significance of the stepparent in the child’s life;
- The stepparent’s degree of participation in the child’s life to date;
- How long the stepparent has acted in place of the child’s biological parents;
- Whether the child will be negatively affected by the stepparent’s absence;
- The emotional ties between the stepparent and stepchild; and
- Whether the child was financially dependent on the stepparent.
Ultimately, in deciding whether to award visitation or custody to a stepparent (or any other non-biological parent), most courts seek to reach a result that is in the best interest of the child. This will likely include an evaluation of whether the child’s continuing relationship with the stepparent will enhance the child’s welfare, as well as whether there are any doubts about the fitness or abilities of the stepparent.
With respect to child custody, a stepparent may have standing to seek custody of a child who is not under the physical care of either biological parent. Alternatively, a stepparent may try to seek custody if he or she has been physically caring for the child for over 6 months and files a petition seeking custody within 6 months of said physical care ending.
Finally, as for adoption, generally speaking, Colorado law requires that the child’s nonresidential biological parent have abandoned the child for at least one year and have failed to support the child. So long as these conditions are met, and so long as the custodial parent has legal custody of the child and the noncustodial parent does not object, as a stepparent, you may move forward with the adoption process. A stepparent may also move forward if the biological parent consents to said adoption. There are certain variables involved that must be navigated.
Please contact the Domestic Team at Feldmann Nagel Margulis for all of your Family Law needs.