Adoptions are complicated legal proceedings with serious and permanent consequences. You should speak with a lawyer for advice if you are considering adopting a child, or considering consenting to your child being adopted.

1. What is adoption?

Adoption is a court process that creates a parent-child relationship between two people, usually an adult and a child, where that child is not the adult’s biological child. In some situations, a person can apply to adopt someone in their family, like a grandchild.

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2. Who can adopt a child?

Anyone who is an adult (over 19 in Nova Scotia) has the right to apply to adopt another person younger than himself or herself. You can apply to adopt someone whether you are single, married, or in a common law relationship, and regardless of whether you are in a heterosexual or same sex relationship.

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3. Who can be adopted?

A person of any age can be adopted. The person being adopted must consent to being adopted if they are 12 years of age or older. If the person being adopted is married, then their spouse must consent to the adoption.

If the person being adopted is under 19, then the ‘parent(s)’ must also consent to the adoption, unless the court has said that their consent is not required.

If the person being adopted is under 16, then the Minister of Community Services must receive notice of the application and give confirmation that they received notice.

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4. Who is a ‘parent’?

This term is defined in the Children and Family Services Act. This Act is the piece of law that deals with adoptions and child protection matters.

 The definition of ‘parent’ can be very complicated to sort out. You should see a lawyer to determine who is a ‘parent’ in your case. A ‘parent’ can be:

  • the mother of the child,
  • the father of the child, where the parents are married or got married after the child was born
  • someone having custody of the child
  • someone living with and having the care of the child for the previous 12 months
  • a step-parent
  • someone who, by written agreement or court order, has been ordered to pay support for the child or has the right to see the child (to have visitation/access with the child)
  • a person who has confirmed that they are the child’s parent (admitted paternity) and who has an application before a court dealing with custody or access, or has provided support or exercised access with the child in the previous 2 years at the time the adoption application is being processed.

Whether a biological father must give consent is a difficult question that you must have legal advice about.

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5. Do parents always have to consent to their child’s adoption?

In some cases, a judge may not require a parent to give consent.  This is called ‘dispensing with consent.’

If the parent is living, you would need to make a special request to the court to ask that the parents’ consent be dispensed with, and give copies of the documents to the parent so they could appear in court to have their say.  

In other cases, you will have to ask a judge to dispense with consent where a parent has died, cannot give their consent because of a disability, or is missing and cannot be found, for example.

In all cases, the judge must decide if dispensing with consent of a parent is in the best interests of the person being adopted.

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6. How does adoption work if the parents of the child being adopted are under 19?

Parents who are under 19 still need to consent to the adoption of their child, unless a judge has said that their consent is not required.

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7. Is there more than one kind of adoption?

Yes. There are basically two kinds of adoptions: private adoptions, and public adoptions.

Public adoptions involve adoptions of children who are in the permanent care of the Department of Community Services, or children whose birth mother or birth parents have chosen to place the child for adoption through the Department of Community Services, or a special agency that deals with adoptions. For more information on Agency Adoption, click here.

There are also different processes for adoptions with consent, and adoptions without consent.

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8. How can I apply to adopt a child?

Adoption applications are made under the Children and Family Services Act. The documents required for an adoption are found in the Civil Procedure Rules, which are court rules made by judges. Applications are made to the Supreme Court in most parts of the province, or the Supreme Court (Family Division), if in the Halifax Regional Municipality or Cape Breton.  

You should not attempt to do an adoption on your own without the help of a lawyer because adoptions are complicated. Knowing what forms to use, who to get consent from, and dealing with notice are all challenging issues. A lawyer can help you sort these out.

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9. Can my new partner adopt my child?

Yes, as long as the other parent consents to the adoption, or in special cases, if the judge dispenses with the consent of the other parent.  The parent of the child normally joins the application as a co-applicant with their new partner

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10. Can I adopt a child from another country?

Yes, you can adopt a child from another country.  The process is all done in the other country.  You should contact a legitimate international adoption agency for more information about these kinds of adoptions as they are not processed in Nova Scotia.

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11. If I adopt a child, what are my rights and responsibilities to that child?

You become the legal parent of the child in every way once the adoption goes through.

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12. How does an adoption affect the payment of child support?

This is a tricky situation. You should get legal advice about this, as the answer will depend on the specific facts of your case. One factor to be looked at is whether the payments you were owed or were responsible for paying were paid up-to-date before the adoption was granted.

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13. If I consent to someone adopting my child, what happens to my rights and responsibilities to that child?

The person adopting the child becomes that child’s legal parent once the adoption is done.  The person who consented to the adoption is no longer the legal parent from the time the adoption is granted.  You should get legal advice as to what this means in your situation, remembering that adoption is forever.

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