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Can Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights and Adoptions Be Reversed In Illinois?

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
June 12, 2020

In this article, we discuss the process of reversing voluntary consents and surrenders to parental rights and answer the following questions:

  • Are Parental Consents and Surrenders in Illinois Adoption revocable?
  • Can An Adoption Be Reversed in Illinois?
  • What is the Statute of Limitations On Revoking Termination of Parental Rights?
  • What is the Statute of Limitations on Reversing An Adoption?

Are Parental Consents and Surrenders in Illinois Revocable?

Putting a child up for adoption is likely the biggest and most difficult decision a parent or future parent will make in their lifetime. Just as those voluntarily adopting a child, the parent who voluntarily consents to adoption and relinquishes her parental rights might have a change of heart during or after the process is complete. Adoption necessitates a stable home for the new child and most parents who have chosen to adopt won’t back out due to an unpredictable future environment, while the biological parent is often putting their child up for adoption due to circumstances in their life that make it unlikely they would be able to properly care for a child. This creates an environment that is chaotic for the biological parent and ripe for second-guessing her decision to terminate her parental rights and putting her child up for adoption.

As stated above, adoption necessitates a stable environment, and the ability to easily revoke voluntary termination of parental rights and reverse an adoption would create an environment that is not in the best interest of the child. Thus, it is not surprising that reversing voluntary consent or surrenders to adoption is very difficult and nearly impossible outside the statute of limitations except for a few specific circumstances, these include:

  1. The consent and surrender of parental rights were obtained by fraud; and
  2. The consent and surrender of parental rights were obtained while the birth parent was under significant duress.

If one or both of the biological parents decides to petition for reversal of their consent and surrender of parental rights, simply stating they were under duress or didn’t understand what they were doing because it wasn’t explained to them will not hold up in a court of law. The burden of proof falls on the biological parent(s) to present clear and convincing evidence they were defrauded or under duress.

Can An Adoption Be Reversed In Illinois?

It is possible to reverse an adoption in Illinois, but the laws surrounding adoption are very strict in Illinois and the rest of the United States. There are a handful of reasons an adoption may be reversed, the most common include:

  • The birth parents were defrauded or under extreme distress during the decision to place their child up for adoption and/or during the adoption process;
  • The child has unexpected needs that the adoptive parents feel they cannot meet; usually, these are medical complications;
  • The adoptive parents suddenly develop health issues that severely complicate their ability to care for the adopted child; or
  • The child’s living situation is found to not be in his or her best interest.

It’s rare that adoptive parents will voluntarily choose to reverse their adoption, but it does happen. In these situations, the child will most often end up in foster care or with another adoptive family. It is much more likely for the biological parents to petition for reinstatement of their parental rights and custody of their child. However, barring any foul play, this is a very difficult and nuanced process and in some states is impossible after a certain period of time has passed or certain paperwork has been signed. The adoptive child may also choose to reverse his or her adoption, but this can typically only be done once the child has reached a certain age.

What is the Statute of Limitations On Revoking Termination of Parental Rights?

In Illinois, the statute of limitations on revoking voluntary termination of parental rights is 12 months. This 12-month statute applies to all scenarios, including those in which the biological parent can prove they were defrauded or under duress and has been rigorously upheld in Illinois courts in a number of legal cases. The same 12-month time frame is true for both the mother’s consent and the father’s waiver of parental rights and consent. 

What is the Statute of Limitations on Reversing an Adoption in Illinois?

Most states have a window after the child’s birth that allows for the biological parents to reverse their decision to place the child up for adoption; in Illinois, that window is 72 hours. If a child’s biological parents decide to place the child up for adoption sometime after the child is born, once the appropriate papers giving consent to adoption have been signed the 72-hour rule still stands.

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