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Picture of a happy family

Once you have decided to adopt, the next step is to start the court process to legally formalize your new family relations. 

The process for carrying out an adoption can be complex, and the rules and requirements depend on the type of adoption (e.g., adoption of a stepchild, direct placement, adoption of a child from another country, adoption from foster care, or adult adoption). An element that is common across all types of adoption is the importance of consent. Let’s discuss some key points on consent to adoption.

Why is consent to adoption important?

Consent is extremely important because adoption has profound legal consequences.  When an adoption order is made, the child becomes the child of the adoptive parent, and the adoptive parent becomes the parent of the child. Birth parents no longer have parental rights or obligations with respect to the child unless, of course, in situations where one birth parent remains a parent jointly with an adoptive parent. All parties to an adoption must understand these significant legal implications before consenting to the adoption. Consent must be in writing. Depending on the age of the person being adopted. A lawyer or social worker must explain the meaning and effect of adoption to the person before consent is given, and information about the person who provided the explanation must be included in the affidavit of consent that is filed with the adoption application (see below for more on that).


Who must give consent to a BC adoption?


Adoption in BC is governed by the Adoption Act. Section 13 of BC’s Adoption Act sets out people who must consent before an adoption order can be made:

  • (a) the child, if 12 years of age or over;

  • (b) the child's parents;

  • (c) the child's guardians.

There are special rules for a birth mother consenting to adoption of a newborn. Depending on the circumstances, consent may also be required from the director of child protection (if the child is in continuing custody) or from an extraprovincial adoption agency. There are situations where a biological father’s consent is not required. Where a biological father is not required to consent as a parent within the meaning of the Adoption Act, an affidavit of the birth mother attesting to this and to the search of the BC Parents Registry is required.


What if a consent can’t be obtained?


The Supreme Court of British Columbia has jurisdiction over adoption in B.C. Generally speaking, an adoption application is started by filing prescribed forms with the court including a petition, affidavits, all required consents, any necessary reports, and the proposed adoption order. If a required consent cannot be obtained, it will also be necessary to file an application asking the court to dispense with the consent. Section 17 of the Adoption Act permits the court to dispense with consent in specific situations For example, where a person whose consent is required is not capable of giving informed consent, where efforts have been unsuccessful to locate a person whose consent is required or where a person has abandoned or deserted the child. A court hearing may be necessary for a judge to decide the issue.


Can consent be revoked?


Revocation of consent is governed by sections 18—22 of the Adoption Act. Revocation must be in writing and is only permitted as follows:

  • A child who has consented to their adoption may revoke their consent at any time before the adoption order is made.

  • A birth mother may revoke her consent to the adoption within 30 days of the child’s birth even if the child has already been placed for adoption.

  • A person who consented to a child’s adoption may revoke their consent before the child is placed for adoption.

Subject to those rules, consent can only be revoked by order of the court, and only if the court is satisfied that it would be in the best interests of the child to do so. 


What consents are required for adult adoption?


There are notable differences for an adult adoption. The consent of birth parents is not required for adult adoptions. One adult alone or two adults can apply to adopt another adult who, as a child, lived with the applicant(s) as a member of the family and was maintained by the applicant(s) until the person became self supporting or became an adult. In that situation, section 44(2) of the Adoption Act states that the only person who must consent to that application is the person to be adopted.


Are you looking for guidance from an experienced BC adoption lawyer?


If you have questions about the legal effects of adoption or need more information about the adoption process, please contact a family lawyer at Valerie M. Little Law Corporation. Ms. Little has over 30 years of experience as an adoption lawyer in BC. Call today at 604-526-3333 to schedule a consultation. Ms. Little can help you navigate the adoption process, including preparing the required paperwork, appearing in court to get any orders, and guiding you through each stage of the process to legally formalize your new family.



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