Family Adoption: A Primer

On behalf of Judith Holzman

Many people are unable to raise their own children, whether due to ill health, death or being unprepared to shoulder the responsibility of children.

The solution is a family adoption.

Grandparents, aunts and uncles, both by blood or marriage, and new spouses (step-parents) of a parent who truly love their spouse's children, have the option of applying to the court to obtain custody. However, adoption is custody with a difference as it brings lifetime obligations, lifetime rights and makes the child legally their own as if by birth.

The process is fairly straightforward under Ontario's Child and Family Services Act, which is the statute that allows blood/or by marriage family members to adopt a child. The legislation requires the consent of the biological parents if the prospective new parent is a non-parent. If the new prospective parent is a step-parent, they may need to proceed with a hearing to waive the other biological parent's consent. At this hearing, the question would be whether there are strong and cogent reasons that the adoption should go ahead, as cutting off the relationship of a biological parent with their child is to be taken very seriously and is often because they are not involved with the child.

Family adoptions used to be much rarer, but Canada is becoming increasingly multicultural. In my practice, I am increasingly seeing grandparents who have raised their grandchildren from a young age and want to regularize the child's situation and raise this child here where they have grown up. In these cases, the grandparents have effectively taken on the role of the parent and, until the child is adopted, immigration status is an issue and may prevent the child from enrolling in school, obtaining an OHIP card and other benefits.

Upon the completion of the adoption process, the process to obtain permanent residency and then citizenship should be relatively straightforward. There is a line of case law which advises Citizenship and Immigration Canada that a legal adoption is binding and is not to be treated the same way as an inter-country adoption where the child has not been residing in Canada.

Please look for a new upcoming webpage for our firm on the area of family adoption.

To learn more, contact my office online or call me at 905-303-1070 (Vaughan), 416-977-3050 (Toronto) or 866-233-0945 (Canada toll free).