Blending a family when you get remarried is an exciting and wonderful step, but it can also be tricky to navigate. If you are planning to legally adopt your stepchildren, that adds a whole new wrinkle to the situation. Fortunately, this is a very common event, and there are well-established procedures to make it easier on the entire family.
While every situation is different, there are some aspects of step-parent adoptions in Ontario that tend to be consistent for most families. However, always keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule, and you should always consult a legal professional when considering adopting your stepchildren. In the meantime, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions to get you started.
Why Would I Adopt My Stepchild?
There are many reasons why step-parents choose to adopt. Perhaps the child’s other biological parent is deceased, or has abandoned the child, and you’d like to officially step in. Adopting the child legally gives you full parental rights, including making decisions regarding medical issues and safeguarding inheritance rights. Additionally, it means that if you and your partner should split up, you will still have the right to a relationship with the child. Mostly, it sends a message to the biological parent and the children that you are deeply committed to parenting your stepchildren.
Can I Adopt My Stepchild?
As with many legal questions, the answer is, “Maybe!” Adoption of a stepchild is covered by the Child and Family Services Act, specifically section 146(2)(c). The primary issue is always what is in the best interests of the child. In this particular case, you also have the child’s other biological parent to consider, since that parent’s consent will be required before you can adopt your stepchild (unless, of course, the parent is deceased). However, in cases where the parent is unknown or unreachable, or if it would be detrimental to the child if the other parent were notified of the adoption proceedings, you can request permission from the court to proceed without their consent. Normally, we get consent before proceeding.
In addition to parental consent, you may also need the child’s consent. If the child is between the ages of seven and eighteen, they will speak with a representative from The Office of the Children’s Lawyer. The lawyer will explain to the child exactly what is happening, make sure they understand, and find out whether the child consents to the adoption.
Can I Adopt My Partner’s Child if We Are Not Married?
Yes. Common-law partners may adopt their stepchildren, and the relationship may be either opposite-sex or same-sex. Although it makes no difference to the adoption process or to your parental rights, keep in mind that common-law relationships do not have the same legal status as marriages. Consider drawing up a cohabitation agreement to cover any contingencies such as medical emergencies, inheritance, or asset division in the event your relationship should end.
Can Consent Be Withdrawn?
If the other parent consents to the adoption, they have a period of 21 days in which to withdraw consent if they choose to. Even after that period has passed, the courts will sometimes allow a late withdrawal if it turns out to be what’s best for the child. However, once the adoption is final, it cannot be reversed.
What Is the Adoption Process Like?
The adoption application will be filed with the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice or with the Ontario Court of Justice. The applicant in this case is the step-parent who would like to adopt the child, and the respondent is the non-custodial biological parent. The adopting step-parent will also need to file an affidavit declaring their intent to adopt the child. For this type of adoption, a home study and adoption training course is usually not required. After the adoption is finalized, the child will be issued a new birth certificate showing the adoptive parent as well as the child’s new name, if applicable.
Will the Biological Parent Who Consented to the Adoption Have Access to the Child?
No. Adoption means that at least one biological parent is being replaced by the adoptive parent, and the biological parent’s rights to the child are terminated. They will not have any legal right to see or contact the child. Accordingly, they will no longer have an obligation to pay child support. This is why it’s important to obtain that parent’s consent to the adoption when possible.
Call Galbraith Family Law for Assistance With Step-Parent Adoptions
Although the path to adopting your stepchild is a straightforward one, it can still be stressful and somewhat confusing. Galbraith Family Law has extensive experience in this field and we would be happy to help you through this exciting step in your family’s life. For a consultation, call (289) 802-2433 in the Newmarket area or (705) 302-1102 in Barrie. You can also send a message through our website.