When a child is adopted the birth parents are no longer legally considered the child’s parents. The adoptive parents become the child’s parents. Adoption is the permanent legal transfer of all parental rights from one person/couple to another person/couple. Adoptive parents have the same rights and responsibilities as other parents. Adopted children have the same legal status as other children. A court order is required to complete an adoption.
Birth parents are the biological parents of a child but under The Adoption Act can also be someone who has been declared to be a parent by the court or someone who has a parenting order regarding the child. Birth parents have the right to parent their children and to participate in any adoption plans.
Birth parents must consent to their child being adopted. Birth parents are required to have counselling and independent advice before they make this decision. Birth parents cannot consent to adoption until at least 72 hours after the child is born.
Birth parents have 21 days from the day they consent to the adoption to change their minds. If the birth parents consented to the adoption on different days, it is 21 days from the day the latest consent was given.
Every child over 12 years of age must also consent to their own adoption. They must have independent legal advice from a lawyer who does not act for the adoptive parents before giving this consent.
Adoption Without Consent
Only the court can allow an adoption to take place without the consent of both birth parents. A court application to dispense with consent must be made. A parent who has not consented will have a chance to explain why they oppose the adoption. The court can make an order allowing the adoption to go ahead without the birth parent’s consent if they find this to be in the child’s best interest.
The other situation when an adoption can go ahead without birth parent consent is when a court has made a child a permanent ward of the government. The court can order that a child become a permanent ward when there are serious child protection issues and other options such as extended family are not available.
Birth parents may agree to their child becoming a ward of the government for the purposes of adoption. A child may also be available for adoption because they are a permanent ward of the government.
If the child is being adopted through the Ministry of Social Services, the adoption is facilitated by the Ministry and there is no cost to the birth parents or the prospective adoptive parents. Birth parents can still participate in the selection of the adoptive parents who have already been approved by the Ministry after a home study is completed.
Birth parents can also decide to have their child adopted directly by someone they have chosen. No third-parties can be involved in finding adoptive parents or children available for adoption. No one can advertise that they want to adopt a child or that they have a child available for adoption. For these reasons these types of adoptions commonly involve friends or relatives of the birth parents.
If the birth parents want to have the child adopted by someone they have chosen, a lawyer is generally required. Legal fees and expenses for things like the home study and background checks must be paid by the people who want to adopt the child.
Step-parent adoptions are when a spouse or partner wants to adopt the birth child of their spouse or partner. The child must be living with and being cared for by the step-parent. The birth parent that the child is not living with must have independent legal advice before they can consent to the adoption. The birth parent that the child is not living with can ask to continue to have parenting time with the child. This request must be made before the adoption is finalized. The step-parent usually has a lawyer assist them through the process.