How to Adopt a Family Member in BC

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Many of our family law clients have come to us looking to adopt a member of their family. Be it your stepchild, niece or nephew, or a younger sibling, it is often ideal for a child in need of a guardian to stay within their own extended family.

Adoption within families is very common in fact, and often encouraged by both adoption agencies and the government bodies that regulate adoptions in Canada.

How to Adopt a Family Member in British Columbia

Adoption is a notoriously difficult and lengthy process. Many parents wait years and pay thousands of dollars in application fees before they become parents.

When adopting a family member, however, you will most likely not have to pay these high fees or wait as long. This is especially true if you are looking to adopt before your relative is entered “into the system.”

The way all adoptions work is first by pairing you, the guardian, with the child you are adopting.

When adopting through private agencies or through the public system, this is often the part of the process that takes the longest. Since you and the child are related and already know each other, this step is essentially skipped.

The next step is to determine your eligibility to become the guardian of this child. This part of the process can also be lengthy, as this involves court appearances and possibly meetings with a social worker.

Relative Adoption Applications

In order to adopt a family member, you will first need to fill out an application, along with a processing fee.

This application starts your adoption process and if approved, it sets you up with a court date.

The BC government website explains the basics of the adoption process:

“In order to adopt a child related to you by blood or marriage, or adopt your partner’s child, you will need to apply to the court.

The legal requirements for a relative adoption are outlined in the Adoption Act. It’s a good idea to get legal advice on how to complete this kind of adoption.”

For more in-depth information on the application process, we’ve provided a copy of British Columbia’s Adoption Application information packet.

Your adoption process may differ from that of others, depending on how you are related to the child you are trying to adopt and on the living situation of the child.

Adopting a Step-Child

Adopting a step-child is often the simplest relative adoption scenario, especially if you already live with your step-child (or step-kids).

This is especially so if your step-child’s other parent is deceased or no longer an active part of their life. If your step-child’s other parent is still present in their life, it may not be as simple to adopt your step-child.

In this case, your spouse and their ex-partner have already established a custody agreement. This agreement is a lasting legal contract that must now be altered in order for you to adopt your step-child.

And since their parent has a right to visit your step-child and has a say in their upbringing, your best option before attempting anything in family court is to consult a family lawyer.

Adopting a Relative in an Abusive Household

If you are looking to adopt a relative who has one or both living parents, you will likely need to prove that your relative’s parents are unfit to raise a child in addition to proving that you are fit to do so.

It’s admirable that there are people willing to take in family and protect them from an abusive or neglectful situation, but it is a very difficult process to do so.

Family courts do not make the decision to remove a child from their home lightly. In fact, they often do everything in their power to fix or attempt to fix problems in the home before resorting to uprooting a child.

If your relative is in immediate physical danger, your first step is to contact emergency services right away.

If your relative is not in immediate danger, but you believe that they are being abused or mistreated, you can first apply for an emergency custody order to get them out of this situation.

After receiving an emergency custody order, family services will follow up with your case and help you determine the best course of action. You should consult a family lawyer to plan what to do next and how to move forward with adopting your relative.

Adopting a Relative from Another Country

If you are looking to adopt a relative who lives in another country, the laws of the country in which they live may apply to you in addition to the laws in BC.

Canada has ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption. This means that international laws apply to ensure safeguards and standards are in place with respect to the protection of children being adopted.

It’s hard to say exactly what the adoption process may look like for you, as it depends on the laws of the country, how you are related to the child, and the laws pertaining to immigration in Canada.

However, your relation to the child may work in your favor to expedite the process, compared to if you were adopting someone who was not related to you.

Get Help Adopting a Relative with a Family Lawyer

The family lawyers at Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group can help you apply for adoption and prepare for your adoption hearing, regardless of whether you are adopting from another country or from right within your home.

Contact us through our website form or give us a call today to start (or maybe continue) this journey together. We have family law offices in Surrey, BC, as well as Abbotsford, BC.

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