The Colorado Civil Union Act went into effect on May 1, 2013 (with the exception of certain provisions related to insurance). Briefly addressed below are parental rights and options available to same-sex couples with relation to children, including children that have been in the family and children that are new to the family.
I. STANDARD ADOPTION:
With the passage of the Civil Unions Act, same-sex couples can now jointly adopt children. In order to do so, the couple must be parties to a civil union. The process can be lengthy, and will include a home study and a parenting class.
Of note, one party to a Civil Union can not adopt a child on their own. A party to a Civil Union is required to jointly adopt with the other party to the Civil Union, unless the parties are legally separated.
II. SECOND-PARENT ADOPTION:
This is a tool that was available to same-sex couples prior to the Civil Union Act, and continues to be available to same-sex couples where appropriate.
Second-parent adoptions encompass a variety of family circumstances in addition to same-sex couples. For a second-parent adoption the sole legal parent must consent in writing to the adoption and must confirm that the child only has one legal parent.
The second-parent adoption process requires a home study and will also include a background check through three separate agencies. Additionally, the adopting parent is now being required to also attend a parenting class.
III. STEP-PARENT ADOPTION:
The step-parent adoption process has been available to opposite-sex couples for quite some time, but one requirement was that the parties be married. The marriage requirement meant that this process was not available to same-sex couples. However, with the passage of the Civil Union Act, this process became available to same-sex couples. This process is generally less expensive and less invasive than the second-parent adoption process.
For a step-parent adoption, a legal parent (natural or adoptive) must be in a marriage or civil union with the potential adoptive parent, that same legal parent must consent to the adoption, and the child must be available for a step-parent adoption.
Available for adoption includes, but is not limited to:
- Other biological or adoptive parent is deceased;
- Other biological or adoptive parent’s parental rights have been relinquished or terminated;
- Other biological or adoptive parent consents to the termination of their rights and the adoption by the step-parent;
- Other biological or adoptive parent’s parental rights are being terminated as part of the adoption proceeding, but certain conditions must be met;
- The child was conceived and born out of wedlock (this includes when a child is conceived through assisted reproductive services).
Unlike the second-parent adoption process, a home study and parenting class are NOT generally required. The process does require a background check through three agencies.
IV. CHILDREN CONCEIVED BY ONE PARTNER:
If the child was conceived prior to the parties entering into a civil union, you will need to use the step-parent or second parent adoption process in order for both parties to have parental rights.
If the child was conceived after the parties entered into a civil union, then that child will be presumed to be the child of both parties to the civil union. As such, no adoption is legally required in the State of Colorado.
In both situations, the parties are advised to consider obtaining a special Medical Power of Attorney in an effort to ensure the protection of the child and the non-birth parent in case the birth parent is unable or unavailable for medical decisions related to the birth parent or the child.
ADDITIONAL GENERAL ADOPTION INFORMATION
You will be required to file a specific Petition and other attendant legal documents for each adoption. The Court will then schedule a hearing. In step-parent adoptions, the hearing will be scheduled as soon as possible. In other types of adoptions, the hearing will be scheduled for a date after the child has been in the adoptive home for at least 182 days.
Additionally, if the adoptive child is 12 years of age or older, their consent to the adoption will be required.
Disclaimer: This post only offers general information and is not intended to provide legal advice regarding any person’s specific situation and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. The area of law discussed in this post is new to Colorado and is an area of the law that is constantly evolving on a state and national level, as such there is bound to be uncertainty regarding this area. If you have specific questions, encounter difficulties with your own relationship, or need other legal advice, you are encouraged to contact an attorney that practices in this area.