Blended families are a beautiful thing. And depending on the dynamics of your family, you may be looking to legally adopt your stepchild.
The process of stepparent adoption in Ontario is fairly straightforward but it is likely that you have a number of questions at the outset.
To help you understand the basics and prepare for the process, we’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions around the adoption of a stepchild in Ontario.
While each situation, and each family, is unique and will have its own circumstances to consider, the following information should be helpful to you in deciding how to proceed with adopting a stepchild.
Can I Adopt My Stepchild?
Yes, it is possible to adopt a stepchild. There are, however, some conditions that may impact your ability to do so.
Adoption in Ontario is governed by the Child, Youth and Family Services Act. This legislation acts as a framework that ensures the best interests of the child or children are always taken into consideration.
There are some issues that may need to be addressed before you can move forward with an adoption.
First and foremost, you will need to get consent from the child’s other biological parents. Obviously, if the other parent is deceased, you will not need to obtain consent.
You can request permission from the court to proceed without consent if:
- The other parent is unknown or unreachable
- It would be detrimental to the child if the other parent were notified of the proceedings
In some instances, you may also need consent from the child. If the child is between the ages of 7 and 18, they will have a conversation with a representative from The Office of the Children’s Lawyer. During this meeting, the lawyer will explain to the child exactly what is happening, ensure they understand, and inquire as to whether or not they consent to the adoption.
Can I Adopt My Partner’s Child if We Aren’t Married?
You can adopt your partner’s child even if you are not married. Common-law partners, opposite- or same-sex, are eligible to adopt.
But it is important to remember that common-law relationships do not have the same legal status as marriages and it is probably a good idea to draw up some legal agreements to cover any trouble that could arise.
Consider drafting a cohabitation agreement that covers:
- What happens in a medical emergency
- Asset division should the relationship dissolve.
Common-law status does not impact adoption proceedings and does not have any bearing on parental rights as established by the adoption but having an agreement in place just ensures a smoother transition and legal clarity in times of crisis.
What Rights Do I Have After Adopting?
Following the completion of the adoption process, you will be afforded all the same parental rights as a biological parent. These rights include the ability to make decisions about the child’s wellbeing.
The other biological parent’s rights to the child with regards to custody, childcare, and control will be transferred to the stepparent. In other words, the adoption process permanently terminates the other parent’s responsibilities for raising the child.
The adoption process also protects the child’s right to inherit in the event of a parental death.
Can Adoption Consent be Withdrawn?
Once the adoption is final, consent cannot be withdrawn but before that, the other parent is granted a brief period to reconsider.
The other biological parent has 21 days to withdraw their consent, in writing. After 21 days, courts may allow a late withdrawal of consent if it is determined to be in the best interests of the child.
Does a Consenting Biological Parent Have Access to the Child?
The consenting biological parent will not have access to the child. The adoption process means that the adoptive stepparent is replacing the other biological parent as their rights have been terminated.
The other biological parent will not have any legal rights to see or contact the child. This also means that they will no longer be required to pay child support.
How Does the Adoption Process Go?
The first step is filing the adoption application with the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice or with the Ontario Court of Justice. The applicant will be the stepparent seeking to adopt the child and the respondent is the non-custodial biological parent.
The stepparent trying to adopt will need to file an affidavit declaring their intent to adopt the child.
With stepparent adoption, a home study and adoption training course is not typically required.
Once the adoption is complete, the child will be issued a new birth certificate showing the adoptive parent and the child’s new name, if a name change was requested in the application.
What is the Cost of Adopting a Stepchild?
There are no governmental fees associated with adopting a child in Ontario. And because you will not be required to complete a home study or complete an adoption training course, you can save costs there as well.
The primary costs associated with adopting a stepchild in Ontario will be legal fees, which can vary depending on the law firm you go with. To ensure that consent has been properly obtained and that all paperwork is properly filed with the Court, it is in your best interest to hire a family lawyer.
Who Decides if the Adoption Goes Through?
A judge will make the decision as to whether or not it is in the best interests of the child to be adopted.
The parties to the application may or may not have to appear in court before the judge. If the adoption is granted, an adoption ceremony at the courthouse can be arranged.
Some of the factors the Court will consider are when deciding if the adoption should go through, include:
- The child’s wishes
- The relationship between the child and their biological parent
- The benefit to the child with regards to stability, continuity of care, and their relationships
- The stepparent’s motivation for the adoption
Once the adoption is granted and finalized, an Adoption Order will be issued and signed by the judge.
Trust RBHF Professional Corporation With Your Stepparent Adoption
By adopting your stepchild, you are solidifying, from a legal standpoint, your role in their life. You will be afforded parental rights and provide the child with stability in both day-to-day life and in times of crisis.
But because this process requires obtaining consent from the other biological parent, consent from the child, and filing an application with the Courts, it is best to seek out family law services.
At RBHF, we are experienced in family law and can support you through all stages of the adoption process. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.