Adoptions: how long does it take and what does it cost?Jan 9 2024
We know it can be hard to find a local lawyer with experience completing adoptions so our team is pleased to offer this service to families who reside anywhere in British Columbia. We can assist with international and domestic adoptions, whether you are an extended family member or new to the child’s life. We can also provide advice to birth parents who are considering options for the best care of their child(ren) and the impact adoption has on legal rights (often referred to as “Independent Legal Advice”).
What We Need
The below list of items primarily applies to direct-placement adoptions (i.e. directed by a parent and not using an adoption agency). For international adoptions, you are required to use an adoption agency and they will work with you to obtain the necessary home assessments and paperwork; this is generally also the case for domestic adoptions that are completed through an adoption agency.
- Registration of Live Birth for any individual a petitioner is seeking to adopt: This is not a birth certificate and must be obtained from Vital Statistics referred to as “Registration Photocopy/Extract (certified copy or extract of birth registration)” on the form. You can obtain the form to apply here: Order certificates and copies – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca). This takes up to 20 business days plus mailing time from Victoria so the sooner you apply the better for moving the application for adoption forward.
- Copies and details of any written agreements or orders relating to the child(ren) you propose to adopt.
- History of the financial and physical care of the child(ren).
- Information relating to the petitioner’s ability to support the child(ren) financially and emotionally, including proposed living arrangements and whether the petitioner has any other children and their living arrangements.
- Contact information for all birth parents and guardians, and confirmation of whether they are expected to consent to the adoption. We will need to serve all of these people with the application for adoption unless there are strong grounds for the court to waive this requirement (such as the birth parent has not been involved in the child’s life for 5 years).
- Depending on the age of the child(ren), there are different requirements relating to their involvement. For a child aged 7 through 11 years old, an authorized person (such as a social worker or physician) must meet with the child and prepare a report on whether the child understands what adoption means and if the child has any views on the proposed adoption. Unless the court waives this requirement, a child who has reached the age of 12 is required to consent to a proposed adoption.
We have a fillable form we typically send out referencing all the details that are helpful to have, but the more you gather ahead of time the better.
This is unfortunately impossible to advise on as there are so many pieces outside of the lawyer’s control and it depends on the type of adoption.
International Adoptions: you must first work with an adoption agency and they prepare most of the paperwork. This process can take more than a year. Typically it is only after the child is in Canada that the adoption agency will provide a package of documents for us to obtain a court order. The part involving us to finalize the materials takes approximately 1-2 months. We do not have the same potential issues around service as with “direct placement” adoptions (i.e. adoptions directed by a parent and not through an agency).
Uncontested Direct Placement Adoptions: we first have to consider the issue of whether birth parents or guardians will be consenting as it can take some time for them to receive Independent Legal Advice to do so. We also may need to serve birth parents or guardians with our application materials, which can be as quick as the person stopping by our office to be served by a legal assistant or as complicated as needing to hire a private investigator. Sometimes the court will waive the requirement for consent and/or service but these are generally exceptional circumstances and we need to demonstrate attempts to track people down.
It generally takes us 1-2 months to prepare the affidavits and application materials once we have all of the items listed above (Registration of Live Birth, details and views of the child report, etc). Note a views of the child report can take several months to obtain, depending on the availability of the professional who is completing it.
Finally the application can be submitted for desk order, which is cost-effective because we do not need to go to court but it can also take anywhere from a couple of days to several months to get approved or hear back from a judge on additional documents that may be needed. It just depends on how busy the registry is and the availability of judges. If there is urgency, we are able to go in-person however this costs more. Adoptions are considered confidential so the courtroom has to be empty or emptied to proceed, which may mean we need to wait until the end of the day.
For uncontested direct placement adoptions (typically a family member), the process typically takes 3-6 months. Things that can delay this timeline are: needing to obtain the Registration of Live Birth, issues involving consent, issues involving service and court resources.
Contested adoptions: typically at least a year, but it really depends on what steps are required to be taken.
International Adoptions: we typically charge a flat fee of $4,500 plus taxes and disbursements. Disbursements include such things as court filing fees and for service or consents if required. If there is more than one child a petitioner would like to apply to adopt at the same time with the same birth parents/guardians requiring consent, this fee is increased by $500 per child.
Uncontested Direct-Placement Adoptions: we typically charge a flat fee of $3,500 plus taxes and disbursements. Disbursements include such things as court filing fees, fees associated with service and any third party fees incurred for obtaining consents or a views of the child report (although usually you would pay the service providers directly). If there is more than one child a petitioner would like to apply to adopt at the same time with the same birth parents/guardians requiring consent, this fee is increased by $500 per child.
Rush: if we are required to go to court to speak to an international or uncontested direct-placement adoption on a rush basis rather than file the adoption by desk order, we typically charge an additional fee of $2,500.
Contested adoptions: we charge at our hourly rates as fees can vary significantly depending on what steps in the process are required. More information about hourly billing can be found at our post here: Hourly Rates and Litigation: how much is this going to cost me?
Independent Legal Advice to give CONSENT
In order to provide consent, a guardian/birth parent must receive independent legal advice about the meaning and effect of adoption. We are happy to provide this service for a fee of $400 plus tax. This involves us reviewing the adoption materials, coordinating with the petitioner’s lawyer about any typographical changes and meeting with you to explain the orders sought and completion of an ILA checklist. If substantive changes are required, these will be charged in addition at our hourly rates (which often is paid for by the petitioner).
We cannot guarantee that we will sign off on adoption documents with you at the ILA appointment. It is our professional obligation to decline where we are concerned that consent may be not given freely and voluntarily. Consent is generally irrevocable and once an order for adoption is made it is final.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
We regularly assist families across BC with both contested and uncontested adoptions, domestically and internationally. Please contact our office at 604.853.0774 to schedule a consult with a member of our Adoption Team, who will help guide you through the process.