Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Stepparents Pursue Child Custody


The Colorado Supreme Court decided an Arapahoe County judge incorrectly dismissed a man's attempt to seek custody of his stepdaughter, clarifying that stepparents do not need to have exclusive physical care of a child nor the biological parents' consent in order to pursue custody.

The basic facts of the case were undisputed. E.K.'s biological parents, Holly Mercer Cook and Martin Andre Kristiseter, divorced in late 2009, when E.K. was four years old. Afterward, Holly Cook began dating Steven Cook and the two married in June 2013. They had two children of their own and lived as a blended family with E.K. During that time, Steven Cook assumed responsibilities of a typical parent, including picking E.K. up from school. On July 8, 2021, Steven Cook filed for a divorce and E.K.'s biological parents removed her from Cook's home. Soon afterward, Cook filed a petition seeking parental rights, or custody, over E.K. Maintaining custody over E.K. would be in the now-teenage girl's best interests, he argued, because Holly Cook's mental issues and alleged drug addiction meant none of the children was safe in her care.

The Supreme Court sided with Steven Cook, finding he had, indeed, provided physical care for E.K. for at least 182 days, considering the several years he spent living with her and the rest of their family. The law did not require that Cook be the exclusive care provider for E.K., nor did the biological parents need to consent to Cook assuming responsibility over E.K., the court said.

Read more here.

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