Overturning an Adoption? (and some other legal things)

(19 Posts)
Lilka Wed 17-Jul-13 14:25:20

When I have a bit of time, I sometimes scan judgements from the court of appeal and pick out any interesting care/adoption related ones to read. I've learned a lot about how the courts make their decisions, adoption law and also heard about some very interesting adoption/fostering cases this way.

Anyway, this morning I had a look and there are 3 interesting (to me anyway) judgments there now, 1 of which concerns overturning an adoption order. I felt a bit conflicted after reading that judgement and wondered what other adoptive parents (or adoptees or social workers or anyone reall) feel about how permanent adoption orders are and when or if you think it's ever okay to overturn one?

The bones of the case in question were that the relationship between an adoped girl and her adoptive parents had totally broken down, the girl was clearly very troubled and now in care for good, the adoptive mother didn't want any more contact or anything. So after talking with a few professionals the local authority thought that it would be in the childs best interests if the adoption order was overturned. The adoptive mother agreed, so did the Guardian etc. Because there's no legal provision to overturn an adoption in these circumstances, they had to go to the High Court and ask them whether the court would allow hearings for an adoption to be overturned in these circumstances or not.

The judges turned them down, and they had quite a few reasons why they didn't think it would be a good idea to change the reasons why an adoption order could be overturned and that it wasn't a good idea in that case to take things any further.

As I said, I feel very conflicted by the idea that an adoption could be overturned at all, apart from the very specific circumstances it's already allowed to be overturned in (which is if the correct legal procedure wasn't followed or if a mother everyone thought was relinquishing, was actually being coerced/forced to sign away her rights). The only case I'm aware of in recent years was one a couple of years ago, where the court (because of the LA's mistake) didn't give notice to a birth mother of the final hearing (wrong address). So the birth mother was denied her final opportunity to appeal as she had the right to do. She appealed the adoption order and the whole adoption order was overturned (months after the celebration hearing etc) and it all had to go back to court again while the courts decided if she could appeal the placement order as well (she couldn't and the adoption was refinalised but correctly the second time).

Anyway, I can't judge anything about this case because there was very little background in the judgement, but in general...I feel that the adoption orders for my kids are as final as giving birth ie. no way back, no reversing to what it was before. I'm the legal parent for good. That doesn't mean I wouldn't ever disrupt, because I know full well that some adoptees need to go back into care for safety's sake or other serious reasons. I've seen enough disruptions and been close enough myself with my DD1 many years ago, to know that sometimes children can't live at home. But I'm talking about the actual legal parenthood bit here. Even if my children had to go into care, my view is that they're mine legally, and I will always be their legal mum whether it's safe for them to live with/have contact with me or not.

But what if adoptiove parents WANT to overturn if, what if it seems to be in a childs best interests to overturn it? I don't know. My gut still says, you can't overturn giving birth because the relationship has permanently broken down, no matter how much everyone might wish it that way. But I appreciate that some poeple might feel differently?

Under what circumstances should an adoption order be able to be overturned in? confused

Lilka Wed 17-Jul-13 14:28:47

Also, who should be involved?

The court in this case, said that because overturning an adoption order results in the birth mother getting her legal parenthood and her rights back again, the birth mother should be involved in any application to overturn an adoption, and should be allowed to oppose or support the application as she wants, because it seriously affects her life as well. But in this case the birth mother hadn't been told the adoption had broken down at all.

If you want to read the judgement it's here by the way

Sorry for the length of my post blush

Moomoomie Wed 17-Jul-13 17:23:51

I agree with you Lilka. My husband and I often talk about this situation and we have both decided there is no way on earth we could "undo" the adoption order.
I feel very sad when I hear about adoption break downs.
How much stems from lack of post adoption support?
How much from "giving up"?

Bananaketchup Wed 17-Jul-13 18:11:47

Oh gosh that's a hard one. I do feel as you do that there should be no undoing of an adoption order. What has happened can't unhappen, even if there is a disruption the adoption happened and I think if that changed then adoption would not be adoption it'd be something else. I'm not saying what I mean very clearly. I don't know what I think should happen in a case like the one you describe though - could the adopter relinquish the child? Is that even possible? It's sad all round.

NeverendingStoryteller Wed 17-Jul-13 19:27:16

Moomoomie - you're right. There's very rarely the support available post-adoption. There is, however, a very real sense of giving up. You give up when your skill set and that of every person around you has been exhausted. You give up when you can no longer have daily doses of violence inflicted upon you or other children in your house. You give up when the lies from the child become so complex and dangerous that it threatens everything stable that allows you to provide a supportive home for another child. You give up when you finally, sadly, realise that separating a child from his or her adopted home is the best, but also the only, way forward so the child can start to heal.

Lilka Wed 17-Jul-13 19:58:16

Banana I understand what you're saying. The most that can happen is the same as for an older birth child, it goes to a full/final care order with the aim of staying in either foster or residential care till the age of 18. There is no way to give up all your parental rights as far as I know, unless a child is readopted. However your parental rights are pretty limited in this scenario. Some children are re-adopted by a new adoptive family following breakdown post adoption but it's rare - re-adoption is more common following a disruption prior to the adoption order, which is what happened to my DD1.

Thing is, in most cases the situation was so dire prior to adoption that it was felt to be in the childs best interests and necessary for the childs welfare to cut all legal ties with the birth family. In disruption cases the children usually have serious issues and IME serious issues most commonly occur after serious abuse and awful early home life. So in many of these disruption cases, is it actually ever going to be in the childs interests to go back to being the legal child of people who are seriously dysfunctional and maybe physically/sexually abusive?

So even in cases where the child is unsafe and obviously cannot ever live with the adoptive family again, will overturning the adoption order actually really help the child?

It is desperately sad sad

Meita Thu 18-Jul-13 09:25:20

Hm. My first intuitive answer is that no, after an adoption order the child is 'yours' just like any BC is/would be. Hence no option of overturning the adoption order.

But then. Maybe there are individual, probably extremely rare circumstances where it is really in the child's best interest for the adoption to be overturned? And if that was the case, should not these personal circumstances and the child's interests go over some important, but still abstract principle?

In general, I'd say this should not be an option. You have adopted the child, so even if for some reason you can't parent the child, the child should remain legally yours, as in, if the child gained any citizenship rights through you, they should not be made to lose these rights; they should always keep inheritance rights; all the legal things that come with the parent-child relation. Adoption is a legal contract that is forever and can't be dissolved.

But then, marriage was the same. The legal possibility for divorce, however, is a good thing IMO. But yet again, given how frequent divorces have become, it has now changed the whole nature of the marriage contract, which now no longer has this 'forever' feel. That is something that should never happen to the adoption contract.

Yes, AC are the 'same' as BC; however we also know that they are not. We can't make their different life history disappear, not even with a court order. We can and must respect it and it affects their lives as well as ours. So, unlike with BC, where this is obviously an impossibility, for AC there just might, might be some circumstance where it would be beneficial for them to re-gain the legal relationship with their birth parents - because essentially that's what would happen, right?

So I don't know. I can see that there might be some rare circumstances where it would be good for the child, and maybe good all round. On the other hand I would be extremely worried about diluting the 'forever' nature of the adoption order. So maybe the abstract principle does go over the individual needs in these exceptional cases? Maybe instead of introducing an option for overturning adoption orders, in these cases other solutions should be looked for. I don't know, such as giving the birth parents special guardianship rights or custodial rights or something similar. Find exceptional solutions for these exceptional cases, rather than changing the general aspect of adoption for the majority in order to accommodate these exceptions.

Moomoomie Thu 18-Jul-13 15:15:45

neverending I really did not mean to imply that people "give up" easily. I'm sorry if that was how it came across.
In my circle of adoptive friends with teenage adopted children, there are a couple of cases where the child has "left" the family home for the sake of the other members of the family, mostly because adequate support is not put in place.
I really do hope the government, with all the changes, look into Post Adoption support and realise there is a very high need for it, for all adopted children.

Devora Thu 18-Jul-13 21:47:25

What a fascinating case, Lilka. My immediate instinct is that the harm caused by making adoption orders revocable by far outweighs the benefit to this particular child (poor, poor kid). But I would say that, wouldn't I?

Maryz Tue 23-Jul-13 22:13:22

I've only just seen this.

My gut feeling is that it is wrong, absolutely wrong for this to be ever ok. And certainly not if it is initiated by the adoptive parents.

I do think that there should be the option, just as there is with a birth child, for a child to be voluntarily put into care for his/her own good. But I'm not aware of it being possible to put aside all birth rights and responsibilities; therefore by definition (i.e. legally an adopted child has the same rights as a birth child) it should not be possible for parents to put aside the rights and responsibility when it comes to an adopted child.

I think if the child wants to revoke an adoption order it should be treated in exactly the same was as a child wanting to legally reject their parents - are there cases in the US where children have "divorced" their parents? But the same standards, legally and morally, MUST apply whether the child is adopted or not.

Neverending, everything you mention in your post can apply to children born into a family - the total breakdown of communication, the lack of a meaningful relationship, the gut-wrenching realisation that you can no longer help your child. But I don't think anyone can go to court and just say "I don't want to be a parent to this child any more" and have all their responsibilities put aside.

3ismylot Fri 26-Jul-13 14:53:49

I think it should be possible in certain circumstances and that if an adopted child wants it reversed and their original Birth certificate to be reinstated (and the Birth parents agree to it) then it should be possible.

I say this as someone who was adopted in the 80s with my Birth Mother put under extreme pressure and threats to give me up and then being adopted by a narc Mother and enabler Father who made my life hell (including making me live with an adopted Brother who went on to sexually abuse me) and have been NC with them for nearly a year.

I am now back in contact with my Birth Mother and her husband who she met 6 months after the adoption and is proud for me to call him Dad and wishes he had met her sooner so that he could have raised me. I have a Brother and Sister and would love to have my original Birth certificate as my legal one as seeing those names as my "parents" make me feel sick!

I have respect for people who choose to adopt and understand that my situation is pretty unusual but I have to live the rest of my life being reminded of them everytime I have to hand over my Birth certificate (luckily very rarely) and I understand that children brought up in abusive homes with Birth parents will feel the same but it isnt the same as the people on that certificate of mine are nothing to do with me either biologically or emotionally.

3ismylot I am so sorry to hear your story. I completely agree with you that children should have the right to have their birth certificate changed in relation to the situation you describe.

NanaNina Sun 28-Jul-13 19:50:35

Thanks for providing the link Ilka (I never know how clever people can do that!) and it was interesting reading the judgement. Presumably you just put "Family Law" into Google. Have never thought to do this, but as you say when you have time, it could be interesting.

I think in a way it is a matter of semantics really because whether or not the Adoption Order remains in place, the relationship between the girl and the adopters has completely broken down and so the "Adopters" are "Adopters" in name only. I am surprised that the LA went so far as the High Court with this case and wonder if they thought that somehow removing the status of the adoptive parents would be beneficial to the girl in question, almost like a divorce.

Before I read the judgement I wondered what the legal status of this girl would be, given that PR remained with the adoptive parents. A Care Order would be absolutely essential in such a case wouldn't it, as birthparents could turn up to "re-claim" their daughter as it were. However 3ismylot your story is so sad, and you tell it in such a rational way, and in your case, it may well have been the case that your birthmother and her husband would have been the most suitable people to care for you. I absolutely agree that you should be entitled to your original birth certificate.

Lilka Sun 28-Jul-13 21:30:12

NanaNina I check for adoption/care proceedings judgements on Family Law Week every so often, because I find it fascinating and it helps my understanding of adoption law. It can also be very useful when there's a media case (given the media often find out about cases when they get to the court of appeal) because the court judgement is so much better than a newspaper report.

If you google 'family law week' it's the first result, make sure you're on their judgements page. They have every public appeals court judgement.

Everyone lots of really great points.

Something I think I like the sound of, is that quite a few US states have adult adoption, so an adult can adopt another adult subject to some legal restrictions. It's a much easier process than adopting a child because the adult adoptee in already independent. No need for a homestudy, you just have to apply and the adoptee's consent can override most objections.

Some birth parents have adopted their (adult) birth children back again in this manner, but also quite a few foster families adopt their former foster children (whom they fostered for years but were not permitted to adopt because of their birth parents objections or social services or some other barrier).

I can't think of any obvious reason to oppose adult adoption. It would have a lot of benefits for people who grow up in abusive families and find their real parents in their short or long term foster carers, or even don't find people they would consider parents until adulthood. It would at the same time be a way for birth parents to regain legal parenthood without reversing the original adoption (and the effect that has on the permanence of all adoption orders) although I know readoption isn't the same as reversing an adoption. What would you think of a law that allowed your mother and her husband to adopt you and become your parents 3ismylot ? I understand if that wouldn't feel right to you, but it just struck my mind as a possiblity

Sleepshmeep Sun 28-Jul-13 22:23:06

3ismylot's story is so sad, but so good to hear you were successfully reunited with loving parents.

Sorry if this is naive, but it has made me wonder what actually happens if an adoptee is in contact with and consistently maintains they want to be parented by a birth family member (who pehaps has since become capable)?

What age would it be appropriate for a child's views to be taken into consideration in this way, and perhaps overide an adopted parent's view? Who would be their advocate or available to work through their feelings?

Aware this must be super-sensitive topic for adoptive parents, who in the main, are amazing people.

I have relatives adopted both in and out of my wider family, so an interest from a personal perspective.

Devora Sun 28-Jul-13 22:48:17

Sleepshmeep, adoption is permanent. Which means, I think I'm right in saying, that if an adoptee wishes to go and live with a birth parent (after the adoption order has been made final), they are in essentially the same position as any child who wishes to live with an adult who is not legally their parent.

My guess is that this occurs most often in three situations. First would be where an older child is adopted who remembers and wants to be back with their birth family - in which case it has recently been decided that they should not remain with that family and the task is to smooth their transition. Second is where an adopted child has direct contact with their birth family, and I imagine it is quite rare for direct contact to take place where a child is that unresolved. Third is where an adopted teenager makes contact with their birth family and wants to return to them. In which case, they are relatively close to adult status and being able to make their own choice over where they live, and I doubt the authorities would see benefit in intervening.

Lilka Sun 28-Jul-13 23:24:33

As Devora said, an adopted teenager has no legally recognised relationship with their birth family, so it's legally the same as if they wanted to go live with their friends parents.

Up to a certain age, their wish means nothing, especially as some children will express this wish without seriously meaning it (like my DD2 who has told me several times since the age of 8 that she wants to live with her mum, yet has been in a full reunion since February and made no moves whatsoever to move in) and most adoptive parents will simply empathise with their childrens feelings but tell them that they can't live with their birth parents again.

If an older teenager wanted to live with their birth parents...well, if they just upped and moved/ran away, the authorities will not usually intervene if the teen is aged 16 or 17 (perhaps in exceptional circumstances but not normally). A younger teen I think might be different, I guess a 13 year old would be removed by force if necessary, but 15 is on the line (and I guess if the adoptive parents did not wish to oppose the move, it would be okay). Given the birth parents have no legal or parental rights, I imagine social services would have to be involved with any teen under 16 in this decision. Over 16 again I think that might be a different story.

The teen probably wouldn't have any advocate. There wouldn't be any legal proceedings unless they are officially in local authority care, and most adopted teens aren't in care.

Sleepshmeep Wed 31-Jul-13 23:31:38

Thanks both for your thoughts, and apols for delay in responding.

I guess I am wondering who and how an adoptee (particularly teens) might get support in working through their feelings before taking any drastic action like running away; if they are feeling torn, with split loyalties etc.

I could imagine many not wanting to upset their adoptive parents by discussing the extent of their feelings with them, however good their relationship.

Perhaps older-adopted children with strong birth family connections, should have independent support/info offered in some way? I know decisions around adoption are usually clear cut, but not all, and some may be the victim of circumstance (thinking illness, finance, poor legal representation etc) and there may well be wider birth family members in the background too. Circumstances can and do change, as 3ismylot's story so clearly shows.

Children/young people in these kinds of situations may be rare, but my feeling is we still have a duty to support the minority, as they may be the ones to slip through the net.

Sorry Llika if I kinda killed your thread! It is a really interesting topic, and poignant to me. I know of teens I would dearly love to know have someone independent checking in on them around these kinds of issues. It's hard.

FamiliesShareGerms Tue 06-Aug-13 21:55:36

Adoption has to be as permanent as giving birth, hasn't it? Ie in certain circumstances a parent may relinquish parental rights or the state may decide to take those away, but the fact that an adoption has taken place cannot be undone.

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