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Many states will seriously consider a child's decision when they are 13 or older. You would have to set up a court date in Colorado, and you could request a mediator first to see fit could be worked out without having to go in front of a judge.
The issues would be how their mother feels about it and what she would use to make the mediator or the judge look unfavorably upon you. Many judges will agree to a son going to live with his father, quicker than they will a daughter. But each case is individual.
Things like past issues, how many hours you work, who you live with, even the area you live in, the schools they would go to, etc. So I would try to have all your ducks in a row, per say...if you work, you have after school care, a good school program, enough space in the home, etc.
Can you explain to me how they were adopted from under you?
Yes, you would have had to show up in court to voice your objection...but....
Without your consent, there had to have been legal and valid reasons for the judge to consent to the adoption. You say you have lawyers, have them get copies of the transcripts from the adoption and see what reasons were given to terminate your rights.
Were you served papers when he filed for adoption?
Does he have full legal custody of them?
Are you still paying child support?
Due to the information you've provided, I do not think you have any recourse. The termination of parental rights, makes the parent/child relationship obsolete, in the eyes of the law, and for all legal intents and purposes. Your children making a decision to live with you, would be like them deciding to live with a stranger. The legal parents would be able to fight it successfully.
To answer your original question, they would have to be 18 to be able to leave home on their own and come live with you.
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When you use the term, "age of consent" you are speaking of sex/marriage. The child's right to leave home, as an adult is 19 in CO, but some courts will not force a 17/18 year old to return home.
I understand that this situation is difficult, but if she is having problems with her stepfather being abusive, she may need to report him. If the problems are not of that magnitude, it may be in your best interest to encourage her to stay put. You are right, at that age, she could get seriously hurt or worse if she gets into the habit of leaving home.
If she comes to you, and you take her in, it's possible that charges can be brought against you.
How were you able to spend time with her recently?
Wow, that's a lot to deal with. Unfortuanatly, he has the legal right to allow them to visit or not. What happened in your home, although it wasn't particularly your fault, looks bad.
It's a shame that he's playing games with you when it comes to these children. He may have only said he understood to get the kids back with him, and may still be really angry over the situation. Unfortunalty it seems you are at his mercy and will have to try and continue to talk with him, and let him know that you are trustworthy and will not allow anything else like this to happen again.
You may need to talk to her as well, her acting out and trying to leave again will only make the situation worse, and if you are seen as encouraging her, then he may cut you off from them completely.
What is the mother's thoughts and actions through all of this?
I agree that the kids don't deserve to be treated badly. If he is doing any harm to them, their best recourse woul be to contact child services....but this doesn't mean that they will be able to come to you since your parental rights are terminated.
Of course they feel betrayed, but you have to let them know that you are in their life now, and you don't plan on going anywhere. If you show them that you plan on standing by them no matter what, this may help in calming them some. Let your ex know that you're not the same person and you want to be a part of their life, she is the one who can get the stepdad to keep the peace.
Your situation is a difficult one, but no matter what, stand by your children and let them know that you will be there for them no matter what happens.