Whitby Adoption Lawyers
Today, we all have the power to define, in our own terms, who our ‘family’ is based on what is in our hearts, regardless of blood ties. However, sometimes our own personal definition of family is not enough, particularly where minor children are involved. When you have made the decision to adopt, let the Whitby adoption lawyers at M. G. Michaels & Associates help make your family more complete. This is where the Adoption Act of Ontario comes into play. Through the Adoption Act, we can create new and permanent family ties through the process of child adoption in Whitby, Ontario, and across Durham Region.
Our firm has handled several step-parent adoptions, and would be happy to guide and represent you through this wonderful step of creating your ‘family’. The process of a step-parent adoption can be complicated. Let the Whitby adoption lawyers at M. G. Michaels & Associates help you create the family you’ve always wanted.
When a child is placed for adoption, the consent of both parents (if possible) is required, as well as the consent of the adoption parent or parents.
If the child is over seven years of age, they will require counseling to help them understand the concept and long-term effect of adoption, and their own lawyer to decide whether they too consent to the adoption by the applicant(s).
Once the consents are all signed, all of the paperwork is submitted to the Court. It is up to each of the adults to agree on whether they wish to participate in an ‘in-person’ private and confidential hearing at the Court, or to simply ask a Judge to review their Court papers and sign the Adoption Order at the request of the applicant’s lawyer.
Some families opt to invite other family members and friends to the hearing, while many simply want the Order, without the short-lived pomp and circumstance.
No different than an application for custody and access on separation and divorce, the Court again considers the best interests of the child when deciding whether or not to grant an adoption application, with reference to section 24(3) of the Children’s Law Reform Act, including but not limited to:
- The child’s safety
- The child’s physical and emotional needs and level of development;
- The importance of continuity in the child’s care;
- The importance to the child’s development of having a positive relationship with a parent and a secure place as a member of a family;
- The quality of the relationship the child has with a parent or other individual and the effect of maintaining that relationship;
- The child’s cultural, racial, linguistic and religious heritage (with particular attention paid to cultural identify of children or native or indigenous persons);
- The child’s views; and,
- The effect on the child if there is delay in making a decision.
A variety of situations can arise which can result in the adoption of a child, including, for example, step-parent wishing to adopt a step-child, if a parent dies or becomes unable to raise a child a grandparent or other relative seeking to adopt a child, in the case of same-sex marriage the non-biological parent wishing to adopt the child or in the event of a person or couple who wishes to adopt a child through an agency, for any number of reasons.
Any individual over 18 years of age who is resident in Ontario can apply to adopt a child. If you are married and looking to adopt your step-child, your spouse must consent to the adoption. If you and your spouse both want to adopt a child however, you must be joint Applicants to the application. The term ‘spouse’ for the purposes of adoption includes your married spouse or your common law spouse, and does not discriminate between same-sex or opposite sex couples. However, both spouses and the child must all be residents of Ontario.
Sometimes a different family member, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle, may seek an adoption of a familial child. This situation sometimes arises if the biological parents are somehow impaired from meeting the best interests of the child who is the subject of the adoption application.
There is no requirement that the applicant to the adoption be married or in a common law relationship; there is no bar to a single person seeking an adoption order. Likewise, there is no requirement that the ‘child’ being considered for adoption be under the age of 18, although we then refer to it as an adult-child adoption. However, only the person or couple who raised them while they were under the age of 18 can apply.
The Whitby adoption lawyers at M. G. Michaels & Associates are well-versed in the legislation and Court documents required to process an adoption application from beginning to end, including when it is necessary to involve the Governmental agencies in home studies, and when they are not required.
Because each of the individuals involved in an adoption (the biological parent(s), the child over age 7, and the adoption applicant(s)) must provide their written consent, most of them are required to obtain independent legal advice, meaning that one law firm cannot represent everyone in the adoption process.
We frequently arrange introductions for you with other lawyers to ensure that all of the necessary parties are able to obtain and sign the necessary consents to the adoption, including the child who must meet with a special lawyer, and to help streamline the process to help you make the family of your choosing.
The general requirements for consent to adoption pursuant to Sections 180 – 191 of the new Child, Youth and Family Services Act govern most adoptions. They set out, among other things, whose consent is required, the differences in adoption processes as tied to the child’s age, how to withdraw consent, et cetera.
Both biological parents must consent to their child’s adoption if the child is under the age of 16, or over the age of 16 but unable to withdraw from parental control, likely due to a disability or other impairment, unless the child is under the sole care of a Children’s Aid Society.
In some situations, however, a Judge can dispense with the need for the consent of both biological parents if granting the adoption application is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. For example, if the person is unable to give consent because of a developmental disability, or because it would cause them emotional harm. However, a biological parent’s consent to adoption is valid only when the child is at least seven days old when the consent is given.
Relative or step-parent adoptions do not involve the onerous tests of an adoption from, for example, a Children’s Aid Society or other stranger adoption.
Any individual, including a biological parent or the subject child, may withdraw their consent to the adoption provided they do so within 21 days of giving their written consent. However, a Judge may grant an extension if satisfied it is in the best interests of the child to do so.
If the subject child is over the age of 12, that child must also sign a consent to being adopted by the applicant(s). The Whitby adoption lawyers at M.G. Michaels & Associates will help you co-ordinate hiring a lawyer, approved by the Provincial Office of the Children’s Lawyer, for the child to arrange a meeting between the child and lawyer to discuss the legalities of adoption and the need for consent. A child is not entitled to give consent without having independent legal representation.
The consequences (legal effect) of an adoption order is that the adopted child’s birth parent(s) no longer have any parental rights or obligations with respect to the child. The adopted child truly becomes the child of the adoptive parents as if born to them; and, the adoptive parents are truly the parents of the adopted child. The adoptive parent can even apply to change the legal name of the adopted child. The main exception to this rule is in a step-parent adoption.
The Provincial Government also amended adoption legislation to provide that a biological parent whose parental rights and obligations are extinguished by a Children’s Aid Society, may seek the right to have access to their birth child, if it is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. This can occur in spite of the objection of the adoptive parents if the Court is of the opinion that ‘openness’ is in the best interests of the child. Openness can also be considered by the Court in a step-parent adoption.
Why M. G. Michaels & Associates?
At M. G. Michaels & Associates, we can help you navigate the sometimes complex and daunting adoption process whether you are a relative, step-parent or other third party seeking to adopt a child or adult over whom you had custody during their minority. Give us a call or email us now.