Under what circumstances will a court trump a biological parent’s legal right to give consent to the adoption of his or her child by another person?
This was the issue raised in a recent Ontario decision. The step-father of the 10-year-old girl had married her mother (who had sole custody), after dating her for about five years and living with her for four. He had always treated the girl as his own and had supported her financially, emotionally, and physically. He participated in her education, made medical decisions for her, and they shared a deep emotional connection. Plus, the girl had always viewed the stepfather as her parent and called him “dad” of her own accord.
In stark contrast, the girl’s biological father had absolutely no relationship with her: Not only had he not seen her for the past 8.5 years, he had never even asked to do so. Child support was something he paid only involuntarily. He had been verbally and physically abusive to the mother throughout their 5-year relationship, which started when she was just 17 years old.
After being advised repeatedly that the stepfather wanted to adopt the 10-year-old girl as his own, the biological father contacted the mother through Facebook to suggest that he would give his consent in exchange a $10,000 fee.
Instead of paying up, the stepfather simply applied to the court, asking for an order that the biological father’s consent to the proposed adoption could be dispensed with.
The court readily agreed.
For one thing, even at her current young age the girl herself had consented to the adoption and was keen for it to proceed. She was very family-oriented, and – since the stepfather and the girl’s mother had a 3-year old together, and were expecting another child – it made her anxious and distressed that the rest of her family and siblings had a different last name. That last name was really her only tie to her biological father since she had no recollection of him.
In light of the biological father’s obvious disinterest in the girl, and the stepfather’s unfailingly positive involvement, it was clearly in the girls’ best interests to grant the order, the court found.
Incidentally, the biological father did nothing to help his own case: despite being properly served with the stepfather’s court documents, he failed to even file a response and did not appear in court. Indeed, he returned the court documents in a less-than-mature and uncooperative manner, as the court explained:
He apparently opened the envelope, read the contents, scribbled randomly on one of the pages of an affidavit; wrote a very offensive word in bold letters on one of the pages, and then re-sealed and sent the envelope back to the [mother’s] counsel marked “Return to Sender”.
For the full text of the decision, see:
S.M.L.L. v. J.K.M.,  O.J. No. 2519, 2016 ONSC 3198