There are ways in which an adoption can be reversed. An adoption can usually be reversed after it has been finalized by petition to the court by either the birth or the adoptive parents. The laws about when this can be done and the circumstances required for the court to allow a reversal (usually called a vacation or annulment) of the adoption are quite strict.  If an adoption is reversed, the adoptee's (child's) birth certificate will be changed back to the way it originally read.

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Who Can Reverse an Adoption?

A petition to reverse or vacate an adoption can be filed with the court by either the natural or adoptive parents or by the adoptee (the child who was adopted).

Birth Parents Reversing an Adoption:

If the birth parents wish to reverse the adoption of their child, so that they may regain their parental rights, the adoptive parents must give consent to the reversal.  In some states, however, even with the consent of both sets of parents, a reversal of the adoption that grants parental rights back to the birth parents will not be allowed.

Adoptive Parents Reversing an Adoption:

It is rare that the adoptive parents of a child will choose to have the adoption annulled or vacated, but it does happen.  In order to allow this, the court will generally require the adoptive parents to show that it is in the child's best interest to dissolve the adoption.  This might occur when the relationship between the child and the adoptive parents is so poor that neither party is benefiting from it anymore.  The court might also allow a reversal of an adoption where the adoptive parents are no longer able to care for the child.  They will not, however, grant petitions for reversal simply to free the adoptive parents of the responsibilities of taking care of a child. 

Child/Adoptee Reversing an Adoption:

There are a number of reasons that a child might desire to have his/her adoption vacated.  Younger adoptees might wish to be emancipated from their adoptive parents.  More commonly, however, adoptees choose to have their adoption reversed later in life, either due to failing personal relationships with their adoptive parents or because they wish to inherit from their natural parents. 

When Can My Adoption Be Reversed?

The main factor that the court will look at is the welfare and best interests of the child, presently and in the future.  In order to be successful in your petition for reversal, whether you are the adoptee or the adoptive parents, you must present to the court a compelling reason for the reversal. 

Can Consent to An Adoption Be Revoked?

Consent to an adoption needs to be clear and concise for it to be final. However, there are certain situations where the consent that was given can be revoked even after it has been finalized:

  • Duress or Fraud: If the consent was given through fraud or duress, then the consent is automatically null and void. The consent must be given through the person or the person’s legal representative free will.
  • Best Interest of the Child: If a child is adopted and the court finds that it would be in the best interest of the child to revoke the withdrawal, the court will grant it.
  • Timeframe of Refusal: Birth parents also have a small window of time in which they can change their minds before the consent is considered permanent.

What Is Each State’s Timeframe for Revoking an Adoption Consent?

Each state’s time frame for revoking adoption consent is listed below. Note that there may be various exceptions depending on how the adoption was processed. Also note that laws are subject to change and thus the time frames provided should only be used as a general estimate.

  • Alabama – 14 days
  • Alaska – 10 days
  • Arkansas – 10 days
  • California – 30 days
  • Colorado – 90 days
  • Delaware – 60 days
  • District of Colombia – 10 days
  • Indiana – 30 days
  • Iowa – 96 hours days
  • Kentucky – 20 days
  • Louisiana – Until child is six years of age
  • Maine – 3 days
  • Maryland – 30 days
  • Minnesota – 10 days
  • Nevada – Within 72 hours after childbirth
  • New York – 45 days
  • North Carolina – 7 days
  • Rhode Island – 180 days
  • South Dakota- 2 years
  • Tennessee – 10 days
  • Texas – 10 days
  • Vermont – 21 days
  • Virginia – Until a child is 25 years of age
  • Washington – One year; two years for Native American children
  • Wisconsin – 1 year

The following states will revoke consent if the court finds that the child’s best interests are not served by the adoption:

Court’s finding of best interest – Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina

Note that all states will revoke consent if there is a finding of fraud, duress or misrepresentation. The states, which will only allow revocation, based on fraud, duress, or misrepresentation are:
Fraud, duress, or misrepresentation – Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania,  South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming

Do I Need to Contact a Family Law Attorney to Reverse My Adoption?

Adoption proceedings are a complicated area of family law.  An attorney who specializes in family law and adoption will be able to protect both the rights of the parents as well as the rights of the child.