STOPPING or
ANNULLING
ADOPTION

How To Stop An Adoption Before Finalization;
How To Annul An Adoption After Finalization

(Disclaimer: The following suggestions for concurrent steps to take without delay, are not intended as legal advice. We advise that you also consult an attorney.)

STOPPING AN ADOPTION

1. LAWYER UP!

See LINKS TO LAWYERS at the bottom of this page for links to Attorney Referral sites, Pro Bono Attorneys, and Non-Attorney Representation..

Even if you can't afford to pay an attorney, and even if the Court or lawyer referral service refers you to a pro bono/legal aid lawyer, which may take awhile for an appointment, IMMEDIATELY telephone private practice attorneys who are listed under "Family Law Practice" attorneys in the Yellow Pages and via LINKS at bottom of this page for the county of jurisdiction. Ask for at least a one-time consultation for legal advice, for a one-time fee or no fee and/or for referrals (many will waive their fee).

Although the majority of "legal aid" lawyers' caseloads may be family law matters, they may not provide the time and expertise you require. Consulting several private attorneys will net you a broader base of information--and perhaps even representation. But be sure to first ask whether they have a "conflict of interest"--have they ever known or represented the individual(s) or entity who you are opposing?

Melinda Walmsley shared this insight: "I wouldn't recommend self representation at the district court level, because it's too emotional. But on appeals, I strongly recommend it from day one, unless you are completely certain that your lawyer is really determined to win. By the time you get through district court, you should be able to make a good judgement on that issue. They either gave it their all or they didn't. And if they didn't at court, they won't on appeal either."

2. CHILD'S BEST INTERESTS, A "GOOD CAUSE"

You will need to show "good cause" why the child must be returned to you or why the child should not be placed for adoption with the prospective adopters. "Good cause" could be coercion or fraud in obtaining your Relinquishment of Parental Rights, or of not being Notified of actions to terminate rights and/or to place the child for adoption.

"Good cause" could also be that you are under legal age and therefore not "competent" to sign a Relinquishment without your parents.

"Good cause" could be the health and welfare of the child would be jeopardized if you can prove this.

"Good cause" can be any violation of law or impropriety in the process, such as your Revocation of Relinquishment of Parental Rights being ignored--or your Revocation was not provided timely "for good cause".

3. CIRCLE THE WAGONS! THIS IS NO TIME TO KEEP THE BIRTH A SECRET!!!!!

The following is just as important as finding an attorney to help you stop an adoption:

If you're the mother and want your child back, immediately enlist the help of the father and relatives on each side.

If you're the father and want your child back, immediately enlist the help of the mother and relatives on each side.

"Possession" of the child is paramount. But if you've already relinquished your parental rights, enlist the help of family members to obtain physical custody of your child, preferably through legal child guardianship.

If you haven't signed a Relinquishment of Parental Rights, but don't have possession of your child (for example, if your child is in foster care and at risk of being adopted), a trusted family member should take steps to gain legal custody to enable you to have access to your child.

In some states, fathers may stand a better chance than the mother of stopping an adoption under current law, especially if the father has not been notified of the pending adoption and hasn't signed a Relinquishment of Parental Rights; if both the mother and father are denied custody, in some states grandparents may be given priority in placement--Ask all family members on both sides to help regain the child through Guardianship, so that you'll at least have access to your child if the child remains in the family. If the child will be lost to stranger adoption unless a family member "adopts" the child, at least the child will still be in the family. At the very least, perhaps relatives can help financially to retain an attorney for you.

4. KNOW YOUR STATE'S LAW!

Don't take a social worker's word for it. Obtain a copy of the actual, current statute on Termination of Parental Rights online or from your local county law library in the state where the child was relinquished;

Also try request (in writing) a copy of the Relinquishment you signed, before it becomes a sealed record;

Make a list of complete names and contact info for the child, parents, grandparents, adopters, witnesses--and date/place of birth, and any information that may be helpful to an attorney to represent you and when/if you need to search for the child.

Request a certified copy of the child's Birth Certificate from the local office of Vital Records and the hospital, before it is sealed upon finalization of the adoption; but DON'T MENTION "ADOPTION" to Vital Records;

Obtain the complete hospital record and doctor's record on mother and child, including Admissions Record, Doctor's and Nurse's Notes, Delivery and Nursery Room Record, Lab Tests, Xrays, Newborn Photo or Footprint, Discharge Record

....but DON'T MENTION "ADOPTION" to the hospital.

5. GET SPECIFICS!

Phone the Clerk of the Court (usually Family Court or similar of the Superior Court) for the county of jurisdiction where the child was, or is about to be, relinquished and where the Petition to Adopt would be filed, and ask 3 things:

---(1). What is the Case Number? And can you view the case docket online (if you have access) or can you see the Case DOCKET at the courthouse on computer or as a hardcopy printout? (while the Parent is not a party to the Adoption proceedings, only to the Relinquishment, and while adoption matters and matters involving minor children are usually sealed, the Dockets are (or are supposed to be) public record-- until the adoption is finalized. Viewing it immediately will give you the ADOPTERS' NAMES. Check the Docket daily if possible. If you reside too far from the Court and don't have computer access to the Docket, you may or may not be able to receive it by mail but if you do rely on mailing, it will be delayed.

---(2) Ask the Court Clerk, (or a Pro Per Advisor if the Court has one for civil cases), to refer you to pro bono legal help. If the Clerk is does not know what you mean or has no referral, ask to speak with the Supervisor of the Clerks (usually of Superior Court or Family Court). Also ask for the phone number of any FAMILY RIGHTS ADVOCACY organization and find out what such a group might be able to do for you. Also contact online groups such as at htttp://CPSWatch.com which have experience at out-maneuvering child stealers.

6. DON'T GIVE UP!

It took the Schmidts (in Michigan) 2-1/2 years to get their daughter, "Baby Anna" aka "Baby Jessica" back from the DeBoers (in Iowa) who had not yet legally adopted her, but who simply refused to obey the MI court which ordered her return (the mother had revoked her consent within the statutory time frame but it was ignored). Persistence (and a great lawyer, Marian Faupel, Ann Arbor MI) won the case for the Schmidts. Such case precedents which reached the U.S. Supreme Court clear the way for others.... so that you may not have to go that far, for that long.

ANNULLING AN ADOPTION

1. LAWYER UP!

See LINKS TO LAWYERS at the bottom of this page for links to Attorney Referral sites, Pro Bono Attorneys, and Non-Attorney Representation..

See #1 under "Stopping An Adoption" for ideas on how to get legal counsel.

2. CHILD'S BEST INTERESTS..

Adoptions annulled because of concern for the "best interest of the child," and or general incompetence of the adopters.

Most states have statutes permitting annulment of adoptions because of incompetence of the adopters, and or general best interest concerns for the child. If an adoptee or other interested party attacks an adoption a substantial amount of time after it was enrolled, courts will consider the present circumstances, and not merely look back at the record. (Cotton v Cotton, 350 SW Reporter 2d 612, 1961.)

3. OVERCOMING TIME LIMIT FOR FILING.

In the Matter of the Adoption of Children by O. 359 A2d 513, 1976, (Superior Court of New Jersey)--This case is the vacating of a judgment of adoption after one year. A natural mother with three children remarried one year after her husband died. The stepfather adopted the children to "cement together the marriage." The new marriage failed, shortly thereafter. One year after the adoption had been enrolled the mother sought to vacate the order of adoption. The request was granted by the court because it was clearly in the best interest of the natural parent and adopting father who wished to sever all ties with each other, and was in the best interest of the children who did not know their adopting father and were unlikely to have any economic problems.

4. ABILITY TO SUPPORT.

Re Lady of Victory Home (1925) 126 Misc. 112, 212NYS 760. Abrogation of adoption on the grounds that the foster parents were unable to properly support maintain and educate the child.

5. EMANCIPATION OF THE ADOPTEE.

Adoptees who are not yet legal age but are the statutory age to decide with which parent they wish to reside, have sought to have their adoptions annulled in order to be "emancipated minors," particularly in cases where their adopters have divorced and the decision for custody rests with the not-quite adult child. But also, divorcing adopters have had adoptions annulled in their own interests.

A recent case in New Jersey has added important thought to the question of the best interest of the adult adoptee. In the case, In re Adoption of M., 722 A2d 615. an adult adoptee who had been impregnated by her adoptive father sought to vacate her adoption. The adoptive father, who had since divorced the adoptive mother, and was now planning to marry the adoptee also petitioned the court to annul the adoption. The Judge vacated the adoption, ruling that the circumstances were unusual, and that annulling the adoption would allow the couple to get married, thus rescuing the expected child from a life of shame and degradation. In explaining this ruling, the Judge quoted from the Hon. Robert Page, Family Law Practice,2-2(1991). That Judge notes that "The Legislature has mandated that the best interests of children be promoted," and "due regard shall be given to the rights of all persons affected by an adoption." N.J.S.A. 9:3-37.

The Judge goes on to state that "These statutory phrases ...suggest recognition by our Legislature that a proceeding for adoption may well affect the best interests of a child or children other than the adoptive child. Likewise, an adoption may well affect the rights of persons other than the adoptive child and the parents, both natural and adoptive." The Judge goes on to elaborate on the relevancy of best interest concerns to an adult adoptee. The Judge notes that "Here, the petitioner, as adopted child, moves post-emancipation to vacate the judgement of adoption. In this sense, 'best interests' standards of N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 no longer pertains to the adopted child." The Judge adds, further on, that "All of the foregoing consequences to vacation of the final judgement of adoption will substantially advance the best interests of the young infant in contrast to the best interests of the adult mother in whose interest the judgement initially entered."


LINKS TO LAWYERS