Adopting a Family Member

According to the Adoption Act, R.S.B.C. 1996 c. 3, the act that governs adoptions in British Columbia, a birth parent or a guardian related to the child is permitted to place a child for adoption when the prospective adoptive parent(s) is a relative of the child.

In order to proceed with a relative adoption, the following written consents must be obtained:

  1. the birth mother,
  2. the father of the child,
  3. the child (if the child is over 12 years old), and
  4. any person who has been appointed as the child’s guardian.

The definition of “father” is set out in Section 13(2) of the Adoption Act. Generally speaking, if a male person has in some way acknowledged that he is the father of the child, if the court has recognized him as a parent or a guardian of the child, or if the birth mother has acknowledged him as the father and he is registered on the birth father’s registry, then that person’s consent is required.

The consent of the birth mother is not legally valid unless that consent is given at least 10 days after the birth of the child.

The consent of a child’s parents can be dispensed with (waived) in certain circumstances. In most relative adoptions, however, getting the consent forms signed is not an issue.

When the child to be adopted is between the ages of 7 – 12 years of age, the Act requires that the child be interviewed by someone specifically authorized under the Adoption Act Regulations, usually a social worker, to make sure the child understands what adoption means and to obtain the child’s views on the adoption.  Because the adoptive parents often want to change the child’s last name to their own, the child’s view on any proposed name change is also obtained. The person interviewing the child will make a written report, and that report is filed with the court as part of the application process.

Once the consents are signed and the report, if required, is received, court documents are prepared and are signed by the adoptive parents. Those documents are sent in to Supreme Court along with the proposed form of adoption order. Generally in adoptions by relatives, there is no need for anyone to actually appear in court. A judge of the Supreme Court will review the documents submitted and will sign the adoption order.

Once the adoption order is signed by a judge, the adoption is complete.  The child becomes the child of the adopting parents and the birth parents cease to have any parental rights or obligations in relation to the child.

The Adoption Act also provides for adoption by step-parents. The process is similar, but sometimes there is more difficulty obtaining consents and additional steps may have to be taken to dispense with a parent’s consent.

The Family Law Group at Waterstone Law Group LLP is familiar with family and step parent adoptions, and is able to guide you through the process step by step.

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