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  • Writer's pictureAdoption NSW

A Worst-Case Scenario: What You Need to Know About Contested Adoptions

Prospective adoptive parents and children often hope for a quick and painless adoption process; all too often, though, it turns out to be just the opposite. Adoption is a long and complicated procedure (though we do try to simplify it with our DIY adoption kits) that can become nightmarish in the event of a contested adoption.

While we hope you never have to experience it, everyone who begins the process of adoption should wish for the best and prepare for the worst.

What is a contested adoption?

A contested adoption occurs when one or both birth parents dispute the placement of a child and want parental responsibility or a legal relationship to remain in place.

A contested adoption often happens in newborn and infant adoptions. In these cases, the birth father is usually the one contesting an adoption, though birth mothers may do so as well. Contested adoptions can also occur in divorced families, blended or stepfamilies, or instances when the government removes a child from their birth family for their own welfare.

Why do they happen?

There are many different reasons that a birth or legal parent may contest an adoption. In the stepfamily adoption process, some of the more common reasons are:

  • The noncustodial parent fears they may lose contact with their child

  • The noncustodial parent fears that the child will not know about them or will not be encouraged to remember them or know about them

  • A consenting parent may change their mind about giving up their parental rights.

  • The noncustodial parent disagrees that the stepparent should gain parental rights and won’t give their consent.

What does a contested adoption mean for my family?

A contested adoption does not immediately stop the adoption process; instead, it gets the lawyers and court involved.

If your adoption is contested, your family and all other parties involved in the process will need to attend a hearing. During this hearing, the court will decide if the contesting parent should retain their legal rights. The possible outcomes of a consent hearing include:

  1. The adoption application ends

  2. The adoption process continues and rights are awarded to the stepparent or adoptive parent.

  3. Another order is granted in favour of the step parent, such as a guardianship order.

  4. Another hearing is called.

Don’t give up hope! A contested adoption does not mean that you have failed — you may still be able to gain custody of your stepchild even if their legal parent doesn’t consent.

At this point, it may be a good idea to have mediation with the non custodial parent and to try to reach a compromise. If reassurances can be provided around there being openness about the adoption or about the noncustodial parent remaining in the child’s life, then they may agree to the adoption.

What else should I know?

We understand that a contested adoption is emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing for everyone involved. It’s best to get professionals involved early on, which is why we offer legal advice from some of the best experts in the field. If your adoption has been contested, you believe it may be contested, or you have questions about the process, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

For more information about our DIY kits or to hear our thoughts on popular adoption topics, make sure to swing by our blog. Comments or questions? We’d love to hear them!

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