14 September 2018
Family and step-parent adoptions: What you need to know
Adoption is one of the most rewarding experiences a family can have. While many people have a picture of adoption as one or two new parents adopting a baby from a family they have never met, the reality is that many adoptions occur between existing family members or within blended families.
For example, parents who are in a second relationship or marriage may wish to have their new spouse adopt their child from a previous relationship or marriage. Family and step parent adoptions create new and permanent family ties and can make a lasting and positive impact on a child’s life.
The adoption process in British Columbia is governed by the Adoption Act, placing primary consideration on the best interests of the child. The legal adoption process can be simple or sometimes complex, with many issues to consider.
In British Columbia, a child may be placed for adoption in one of four ways:
- Placement by the director of adoption who works for the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
- Placement by an adoption agency.
- Direct placement (when the birth parent or other guardian of a child places a child for adoption with a non-relative).
- Relative and step-parent adoption (adoption of a child by a relative or step-parent).
In this blog, we focus on relative and step-parent adoptions.
Who can apply to adopt a child in B.C.?
One adult alone or two adults jointly may apply to the court to adopt a child. One adult may apply to the court to jointly become a parent of a child with a birth parent of the child. Each applicant must be a resident of British Columbia. For example, step-parents may apply for an order that they become “jointly” a parent of the child with the birth parent, usually the step-parent’s spouse.
The views of the child
When the child to be adopted is at least 7 years of age and less than 12, the applicant must arrange for a person authorized by the Adoption Act Regulations, such as a social worker or child specialist, to meet the child privately so the person can make a written report. The report would indicate whether the child understand what adoption means, and has any views on the proposed adoption and on any proposed change of the child’s name.
Who must consent to the adoption?
It the adoption is uncontested, you must file written consents of the child’s parents, the child (if the child is over 12 years old), and any person who has been appointed as the child’s guardian.
A birth mother’s consent to the adoption of her child is valid only if the child is at least 10 days old when the consent is given. A person under 19 years of age may give a legally valid consent to the adoption of a child.
In some circumstances the consent of the child’s parents can be dispensed with by way of an application to the court. The test for dispensing with a parent’s consent is strict and there must be serious and important reasons for doing so.
What other documents are required?
Once you have the written consents and the report, if required, you must file other court documents as part of the application process. You will also need the original or a certified copy of the child’s birth registration or satisfactory evidence of the facts relating to the child’s birth.
All the documents are filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia with the proposed form of adoption order. A judge of the Supreme Court will review the documents submitted and will sign the adoption order.
What happens after an adoption order is made?
- the child becomes the child of the adoptive parent.
- the adoptive parent becomes the parent of the child.
- the birth parents cease to have any parental rights or obligations with respect to the child, except a birth parent who remains a parent jointly with the adoptive parent. In this case, the adult joins the birth parent as parent of the child, and the child’s other birth parent ceases to have any parental rights or obligations in relation to the child.
The Watson Goepel LLP Family Law Group has extensive experience with relative and step-parent adoptions. We help prospective adoptive parents, birth parents, and step-parents understand their rights and obligations, and assist them with any challenges that may arise throughout the legal process.
Donna Yamazaki is a lawyer in the Family Law Group.