Having an adoption overturned or nullified is a difficult process, but not an impossible one. Regardless of the circumstances for overturning an adoption, and even if all parties are in agreement, the government agencies and legal system must still satisfy their own concerns, primarily, what best serves the needs of the child. Your interests, whether as an adoptive parent or as the natural parent, are considered as factors in the ultimate determination, but they are secondary.
In virtually every case, the process is the same. A motion which lists the primary basis for overturning the adoption is filed with the court. A hearing is scheduled to convince the court that the basis for overturning the adoption is valid, as presented in the motion, with sufficient probable evidence to support the claim. If the motion is deemed valid, government agencies, such as Social Services or Child Welfare, are called upon to conduct investigations into the allegation or allegations made in the motion. The court then convenes to hear the findings of the investigations and to hear the testimonies of the parties and experts involved in the case. And finally, a decision is made by the court which either grants or denies the motion. These are the basic steps, but it is not unusual, and in the majority of cases, highly probable, that a series of additional hearings, counter-motions, and investigations will occur. The process may very well last months or even years.
Motions to overturn an adoption may come from a variety of sources. The "traditional" reason is that the primary birth parent, usually the mother, seeks to regain custody of their child because they now possess the means and ability to care for their child. But a recent issue which has become more prevalent occurs when a birth father becomes aware of a previously unknown offspring. What are his rights as it pertains to his child, especially when he has been kept in the dark about the child's existence and had no say as a parent in the initial adoption? While it is true that the court ultimately seeks the best interests of the child involved, the legal precedent (established legal finding) is that the child will ultimately be better off with a natural parent if that parent is deemed to be capable and willing to provide for their child, even if the adoptive parents have done an exemplary job and the child is healthy and happy. While many legal advocates have argued that such rulings result in deep psychological trauma for the child, it is still relatively rare for the courts to not overturn the adoption if the birth parent is able to prove their capability to care for and meet the needs of the child.
Another, relatively new issue is occurring with parents who adopt children from other countries. Filings by parents to have their own child adoptions overturned are growing. The primary reason for this trend is the discovery of deep psychological trauma or a medical condition which was not disclosed by the government or foriegn agency before the adoption occured. The majority of cases are not simply that the parents have changed their minds, but that the undisclosed history of the adopted child has resulted in extreme hardship and an inability to integrate the adopted child into the family. It is a tragic situation which often leaves the parents overwhelmed with guilt and self-doubt even if successful.
In cases of alleged abuse or neglect on the part of the adoptive parents, virtually any party can bring a motion to overturn an adoption, including extended family members, a birth parent, a state agency, or even the adopted child. Under these circumstances, the child is put in protective custody and placed with foster parents or cared for in a group facility until the outcome is determined. Allegations of abuse are taken very seriously by the courts, and adoptive parents, even if found innocent of any wrongdoing, are often left with little, if any, redress against false or unfounded accusations.
If, for whatever reason, you are involved or are considering a reversal of an adoption, it is imperative to consider your motivations and the primary reason you are undertaking the task. Some are quite clear, such as cases of abuse or neglect. Others will be more subtle, especially if you are a birth parent seeking to regain custody of your child. There are a variety of services available to help you understand your rights, responsibilities, and desires, including legal, psychological and social organizations. But whatever you ultimately decide, do your best to consider what is most important, the happiness of a precious child.