There are a few reasons why an Adoption may be reversed. It is usually due to fraud, the child having unexpected needs that the adoptive parents cannot handle, or health issues on the part of the adoptive parent(s). Adoptions do not always work out. While it is possible to reverse an adoption, adoption is not intended to be reversible and is therefore a complicated and nuanced process.

The process to reverse an adoption differs based on who wishes to reverse the adoption, and when the reversal takes place. Usually, an adoption can be reversed after it is finalized by either set of parents petitioning the court.

The laws regarding reversal are quite strict, and it is absolutely necessary that reversal be in the child’s best interest for anything to proceed. If the adoption is reversed, the child’s birth certificate will be changed back to the way it was originally read.

What is Disruption of Adoption vs. Reversal of Adoption?

The reversal process differs based on when the reversal takes place. A reversal can occur when an adoption has not yet gone through, which is called a “disruption of adoption,” or when the adoption has already been finalized, which is a true reversal of adoption.

In a disruption, the child has not yet been legally adopted by the adoptive parents. Disruption can occur when the adoptive parents realize they are not ready to be parents, or for other personal reasons. The adoption agency is contacted and the adoption proceedings cease. Some paperwork might be required, but the courts generally do not intervene during a disruption.

A reversal occurs when adoptive parents have decided that the adoption just isn’t working out, for whatever reason. The decision to go through with a reversal is not usually made lightly. They must petition the court, asking them to vacate or annul the adoption. Additionally, they must prove to the court that continuing the adoptive relationship would actually act against the child’s best interests.

Who Can Reverse an Adoption?

Birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adopted child (or adoptee) can file a petition to reverse or vacate an adoption.

If birth parents wish to regain their parental rights, they may petition the court for an adoption reversal. This is the most difficult form of reversal and, in some states, is actually impossible. In these states, even if the consent of both sets of parents is obtained, it is still not allowed.

When it is allowed, the birth parent(s) must provide evidence that they have “extraordinarily” improved their abilities to care for the child. Further, they must obtain the consent of the adoptive parents. Situations like this typically occur when the child is adopted by family members concerned for the wellbeing of the child.

Rarely do adoptive parents wish to reverse the adoption, but it does happen. This is generally due to the parents feeling that the adoption is not working out, such as the relationship becoming so poor that neither party benefits from it any longer. And, once again, they must prove to the court that is in the best interests of the child to end the adoptive relationship. If the adoptive parents are no longer able to care for and support the child, the court may also grant a reversal. However, they will not issue a reversal simply to relieve the adoptive parents from their responsibilities as parents.

The adoptee may wish to have their adoption reversed for several reasons. They may seek emancipation from their adoptive parents. Additionally, they might want to contact their birth parents, and the adoption stipulates that they cannot. Most commonly, it is due to a failing relationship with their adoptive parents. In some cases they even find a suitable placement for themselves, and the adoption process begins again, removing the old adoption of all legal power.

Can Consent to an Adoption be Revoked?

Consent to an adoption must be clear and concise in order for it to be final. There are, however, certain situations in which consent can be revoked, even after it has been finalized:

  • Duress or Fraud: If the consent was obtained through fraud, or while the person consenting was under duress, then the consent is null and void;
  • Best Interest of The Child: If the court finds it is in the best interest of the child to revoke the adoption, the court will grant it;
  • Timeframe of Refusal: Birth parents have a limited window in which they can change their minds, before the consent is considered permanent and irreversible. Each state has their own timeframe, ranging from 72 hours after birth in Nevada and until 25 years of age in Virginia. Additionally, that time frame depends on how the adoption was processed. Some states revoke consent if the court finds that the adoptee’s best interests are not being served by the adoption, such as in Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri

All states will revoke consent in cases of fraud, duress, or misrepresentation, but some states will only allow revocation based on those stipulations.

Do I Need an Attorney to Reverse an Adoption?

Adoption proceedings are complicated and require a thorough knowledge of family law. A knowledgeable and qualified adoption attorney can give you your options, represent you throughout the case, and ensure that everyone’s rights are protected. A family law attorney that specializes in adoptions may be invaluable.