Should I Adopt my Step Child?

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Non-traditional or “blended” families are becoming more and more common in Canadian society. One aspect of this movement is step-child adoption.

Before deciding to adopt, it is a good idea to consider meeting with a therapist or a counsellor. In the rush of happiness about your new family it may appear there is no downside to adoption, but this is a big step to take with permanent effects. A counsellor can help you decide if adoption is right for you and the child.

Consent?

A child can only have two legal parents, so if a step parent adopts a child, the parental relationship with the biological parent is legally terminated.  In some cases, the biological parent may consent to adoption.

When a parent refuses to consent, you can ask the courts to ‘dispense with consent.’ This is a much harder route to take because you must convince a judge, over the objections of a biological parent, that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. The courts will look at several different factors and try to determine if the child is better off with the step parent or with their biological parent. This may include the relationship between the parent and child, the wishes of the child (if they are 12 or older), and many other factors.

Is step child adoption right for your family?

A blended family is every bit as much a “real” family as adoptive ones. They can be loving, healthy and vibrant.  For some families, sharing a last name is the more important than a full adoption. In that case you can apply to change a child’s legal name without an adoption, which is a simpler process.

The courts will consider some of these factors when deciding whether or not to allow an adoption over the objections of a natural parent:

  • the stability of the new relationship
  • the quality and strength of the relationship between the child and their birth parent
  • the wishes of the child (when they are 12 or older)
  • whether there has been any parental misconduct

If you're having an issue related to this topic we'd be happy to help.  You can call us at (902) 826-3070 to set up a meeting or contact us online.  You can also schedule a no commitment Issue Review Consult for $100+HST where you have the opportunity to explain your situation to a lawyer and get basic advice before deciding whether or not you'd like to retain us.

Peter G. Duke - Associate Lawyer

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