After last week's post on our Colorado Springs family law blog concerning child custody questions at the end of a same-sex marriage, let's turn to the subject of same-sex partners who want to formally bring a child into their family. Sometimes, one legal parent of a child may want his or her same-sex partner to adopt the child, so they may raise the child together. Colorado same-sex family law provides for such adoption (Colorado Revised Statutes §19-5-200.2 through 19-5-212), even without a civil union.
Gay and lesbian couples in Colorado have availed themselves of the right to legally marry in our state since even before the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Obergefell case. With marriage, some are finding, come a number of legal issues. Unfortunately, same-sex family law is in some cases left trying to catch up to the realities of same-sex marriage.
Although the right to marry applies to all couples in the state of Colorado, same-sex marriages still carry some unique legal difficulties. These types of situations are stressful and uncertain no matter the type of relationship, but same-sex couples often face a different set of challenges regarding child custody and asset division.
Since our institutions have begun to recognize same-sex marriages, old and new same-sex families have considered parenting and expanding their family. A common way of pursuing child rearing is through adoption. However, the same-sex family may be wondering how to go about this process, or whether there are any special issues that need consideration, especially considering same-sex marriage is relatively new and, unfortunately, still controversial; yet, same-sex family law has been developing rapidly to smooth out the bumps in the process.
When a separate sex couple in Colorado brings a child into the world there are generally few questions about the child's parentage. Biological mothers and fathers are listed on children's birth certificates and those acknowledgements, as well as legal presumptions about marriage and parentage, usually result in both individuals having parental rights over their kids during their relationships and when those relationships end in divorce.
Many Colorado residents are familiar with the term "prenuptial agreement." Even if they are not married or if they are married, but did not execute a prenup prior to tying the knot, they may have a vague understanding of what these family law contracts do. Put simply, a prenuptial agreement is an agreement that two people enter into before they get married and that spells out what their financial and property rights will be during their union and what will happen with those assets if the partners choose to divorce.
The choice of two people to unite themselves in marriage is a major decision that will change the course of the participants' lives. In addition to maintaining their own responsibilities and relationships, they may find that they desire to take on more direct, active roles with regard to their partners' children or that they wish to grow their new families through adoption. For some Colorado residents, expanding their legal and familial relationships can be overwhelming, and many may not know how to progress when it comes to beginning family law proceedings.
Until the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Obergfell v. Hodges in 2015, there was a fair amount of discrepancy regarding where a same-sex couple could pursue a divorce. Problems would often arise when a couple legally married in one state, but then sought to end its marriage through divorce in a state where same-sex marriages were not recognized. After Obergfell though, same-sex marriages were legalized in all 50 states, and as such, so too were divorces between individuals of the same sex.
Colorado's adoption laws permit a number of parties the right to seek to adopt the children that they love. While individuals generally must be 21-years-old or older to pursue adoption, younger parties may seek to adopt, if they are able to secure approval from the courts. The martial status of individuals hoping to adopt also does not affect their rights to do so, but in most cases, individuals joined to their partners through marriage or civil unions must petition for adoption together.
Across the nation, thousands of children are in need of stable homes and families to call their own. Caught in the foster care system or eligible for adoption, many children with these dire needs are living within the state of Colorado. And though not all individuals have the ability to bring a child into their households through adoption or fostering, a number of same-sex couples look to these programs to become parents in their own right.