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Successful open adoptions require work, planning, co-operation

An open adoption is not the same as ‘access,’ and making it work requires careful planning and the co-operation of everyone involved, Ottawa family lawyer and civil litigator Timothy N. Sullivan tells Law Times.

As the article notes, courts are now involved in considering the parameters of an open adoption, recently clarifying that openness does not mean that access will continue and warning families not to assume that it will.

The recent case of S. (N.P.T.) v. Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, 2016 ONCJ 242, focused on a grandparent adoption where the access to the mother was causing extreme behavioural issues and insecurity in the two children.  

Justice Carole Curtis found that the mother was undermining the permanence and nature of the role of the adoptive parents and ruled that continued access was not in their best interests, Law Times reports. She noted: “An openness arrangement is not intended to serve the interests of the biological parent.” 

“A case like this is insurmountably tricky,” says Sullivan, principal of SullivanLaw.

“CAS has come to some kind of opinion on the fitness of the parent. That only creates more challenges. It’s always better to be in contact with family, but family members are sometimes the problem,” he adds.

As Sullivan tells Law Times, he has experience with this type of situation through his work and because of a friend’s experience. 

“I’ve run into what they are calling open adoption both ways. It takes the birth parent and the adopting family, it takes the children and everyone involved, including family and close friends, to make it work. It requires a lot of work, planning and co-operation,” he says.

As Sullivan confirms, open adoption and access are separate concepts.

“One defines dates and times. One is quasi-custodial that is not well defined,” he says.

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