Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 6, 2012

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Sometimes adoptions just don’t work out, and sometimes the courts should never have permitted an adoption to begin with. No matter what the reason for challenging an adoption, the courts do provide some protection for both natural and adoptive parents.

Adoption is a state issue, so every state’s laws regarding adoption and challenging adoptions will be different. It is always advisable to seek out a private attorney when going through an adoption to ensure that everything is done correctly and that there are no surprises. Seeking out an attorney is even more important if you are challenging an adoption.

Challenging an Adoption: Protections for the Natural Parent

The natural parent may challenge the adoption after it has become finalized. This form of challenge is prominent among natural fathers who are often overlooked during the adoption proceedings, especially if they are not named on the child’s birth certificate. When a natural parent challenges an adoption on these grounds, most state courts require a genetic test to verify the relationship if the parent is not mentioned on the birth certificate.

Natural parents may also challenge an adoption by asserting that the adoption was obtained as the result of coercion, duress, or fraud. Coercion and duress would involve someone threatening harm to you or to someone else as a means of forcing your cooperation. For example, if the other natural parent threatened to harm you if you did not put the child up for adoption, you would have grounds for a challenge of the adoption. Fraud may have occurred if you signed the adoption document while being told that you were signing something else. Proving fraud, duress, or coercion can be very difficult and often requires solid evidence.

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Challenging an Adoption: Protections for the Adoptive Parent

An adoptive parent could likewise challenge an adoption on the grounds that consent was obtained as the result of fraud. This assertion is most commonly seen when the adoptive parents are attempting to be relieved of the responsibility for an adopted child. One such example is when a newly adopted child becomes seriously ill or is found to be mentally disturbed. If your adoption was handled without pertinent information or proper examination of the child, or the child’s natural parents refused to report observations about the child’s behavior or illness, you do have grounds to challenge the adoption. A common problem seen with adoptions outside the United States involves a bait and switch by the adoption agency in an attempt to adopt out a problem child.

Challenging an Adoption: Time Limitations

If you intend to challenge an adoption, it is imperative that you do so as soon as possible, because many states will only permit adoption challenges within one year of the adoption process. Additionally, adoption challenges are complex and require a specialized adoption lawyer specific to your state. If you are concerned about the legitimacy of a recent adoption or have been threatened with an adoption challenge, contact an attorney immediately for advice.