By Douglas J. Manning, Partner, Certified Specialist in Family Law

In 1985 the adoption laws in Ontario were changed so as to allow for the adoption of an adult by another adult.  This was done primarily to allow long-standing pseudo parent-child relationships to be recognized by the law as just as legitimate as “real” biological parent-child legal relationships and responsibilities.

It is sometimes the case that a family who has known the “child” and the child’s family for years is asked to step “into the shoes” of the parents and raise a child from a young age.  Sometimes these arrangements are intended to be for short periods of time, until the parents get “back on their feet” so that they can resume their parenting responsibilities but occasionally these arrangements turn into long term, permanent arrangements and the pseudo-parents end up raising the child through their childhood, teen years, and maintain a parent-like role throughout the “child’s” adulthood.  It is these types of situations that motivated the legislation to change to allow for these practical parent-child relationships to become legal parent-child relationships.

As far as I am aware, there has been no mischief created as a result of this legislative change.

However, a recent situation in Florida, reported in the Toronto Star February 3rd caught my eye.  Apparently a 48 year old millionaire decided to make his 42 year old girlfriend of two years his adopted daughter.  How surreal is that!

There is more here than meets the eye (apparently).  It seems that the “Father” had set up a trust fund for his 2 (real) children some time ago and the trust is worth about $200 million.  His children cannot access the trust funds until they are 35 years of age.

The “Father” is the defendant in a civil law suit where he is alleged to have killed a 23 year old in a motor vehicle accident while under the influence of alcohol.  If that lawsuit is successful then his personal assets might be available to satisfy the judgment.

By making his girlfriend his “child” then she would have access to one-third of the trust fund and possibly be able to shelter at least this amount of money from being accessed to satisfy the judgment in the civil suit.  It also provides a nice “nest egg” with which this guy and his girlfriend/daughter can live comfortably on if he loses a significant amount of his personal wealth.

Could someone take a shot at setting aside the “adoption”?  Maybe. but I ask myself – Who would have standing to make the application?  Perhaps his 2 other children (when they become adults) given that they may be upset at “losing” a portion of their trust fund.

This is an interesting case where the law has been used in a way for which it was clearly not intended and it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.  What about you?