How to reverse an adoption

Dr Maree Livermore
Founder & CEO

It is a sad reality that the process of adoption does not always result in a successful family unit.  As a result, adult adopted children sometimes wish to reverse an adoption.

The reasons for reversing an adoption are many and include relationship breakdown between the adopted child and at least one parent; or the wish to identify, at least formally, with their original, biological family. Then, there are human rights concerns. These include the fact that such a significant decision in a person’s life, being the severing of their birth ties, has been taken without the person’s consent, and likely before they are old enough for their views to be considered.

The good news is that, in Australia, it is possible to apply to have an adoption order reversed or annulled after you become an adult. The process for doing this will depend on the laws in force where the adoption took place. 

How to reverse an adoption

In most states and territories, you can apply to the court to have an adoption order reversed.  This is known as ‘setting aside’ or ‘discharge’ of an adoption order. Depending on the legislation applying in the state or territory in which you were adopted, you may need to have evidence of certain grounds for the discharge, such as irretrievable breakdown of relationship, or that there was a legal problem with the adoption, such as fraud, duress, or a failure to follow proper procedures.  

The effects of reversing an adoption 

Again, depending on the laws of the state in which the adoption took place, the effect of a discharge of adoption may be that an adoptive parent’s name is removed from the birth certificate, and that your birth parents once again become your legal parents, with or without their consent. This is one reason to consider the potential impact of an adoption discharge before taking any action. Your relationships with your adoptive family and any siblings who were also adopted are likely to be significantly affected. 

Taking legal action to discharge an adoption order can be time-consuming and complex. But it can be one that makes a big difference to the way you see yourself in relation to family, and to the world more generally.  If you would like to explore the law and process that applies in your particular circumstances, please reach out to Tribe for a free Case Evaluation.