Can a Step-parent Adoption Be Reversed?

Updated on June 17, 2016
A.A. asks from Jackson, MI
19 answers

Okay, kinda complicated. My boyfriend adopted his ex wife's son 6 years ago and they got a divorce and he is paying child support for him and getting standard visitation Wednesdays and every other weekend, BUT now the child's 8 and his mother brought the child's biological father back into his life which was discussed in the adoption that that would not happen and he sees the child on a regular basis and the child is starting to misbehave when he is with us because my boyfriend is not his "real dad" and he mentioned spending fathers day with his real dad. We have tried to discuss how confusing this could be for an 8 year old boy to his mother but she sees nothing wrong with her actions and does everything she can do to hurt my boyfriend. What do we do?

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So What Happened?

Okay, I may have not explained the situation right in the first place...I want nothing more but to be with my boyfriend and his child, leaving is not an boyfriend is struggling very much because the mother is doing anything and everything to keep my boyfriend out of the child's life, even making up lies to the child and putting the child in the middle of a lot of adult situations. The child has a stable environment when he is with us but he is only there every other weekend. We are in court and have an attorney but they are not doing much with regarding the child's bio father being back in his life. My boyfriend IS and WANTS to stay dad but the mother is fighting it every step of the way. My boyfriend is devastated but now the child is siding with his mom and wants to be with his bio dad because his mom said she would "set up a visitation schedule with his bio dad just like he has with his adoptive dad. I will never leave my boyfriends side and I love his son to death, but I was just trying to get advice on how other mothers feel because my boyfriend is at his whits end with his ex keeping him from him but letting bio dad be involved in everything.

Thank you to all of your answers, most of you were very helpful. To answer a few of your questions...yes my boyfriend and I do live together and yes we are definitely planning a future together (he has a child and so do I, and we are both very much in love and very much in agreement that no matter what comes our way we will work through it because there are 2 innocent children involved) We also have an attorney and we have set up therapy for the child at our children's hospital. Because bio mom and her parents are looking at having his bio dad back in his life as a good thing, so does the child. When he comes to our house the child will talk about his bio dad which is fine and we listen and assure him that we don't mind he is seeing him as long as he treats him good. But as far as my boyfriend goes when not around the child its frustrating because like some of you mentioned he gets to be the parent (punishiments, financially, emotionally, etc) with limited visitation and his bio dad just gets to sign over rights with no responsibility and gets to be there for "fun" so of course the 8 year old is going to lean more towards his bio dad. I've tried to get along with child's mother but again she will NOT let that happen. The lies and efforts of this women trying to keep my boyfriend away from their son has been endless for the last year including trying to put him in jail filing a false police report (which got dropped because he proved he was at work and she didn't get into any trouble even though we took her to court for filing they just told her not to do it again) I guess we will just have to play this by ear and keep reassuring him we are not going anywhere and we love him. Every weekend he stays with us, come Sunday when we take him home he is crying and wants to stay. We are just going to stay focused on making it as stable as we can when he is with us because at his moms its just a clusterf*** excuse my language. Not only is bio dad back in the picture in a little over a year she has had 5 different boyfriends (2 of which told child they loved him) Please keep us in your thought. Trying to stay optimistic and patient.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

More confusing than the girlfriend of the ex husband, step father acting as the parent?? Too many hands in the pot for me.

I would certainly hope adopted father can't change his mind now that he is divorced when the kid is eight and then things are not going his way. He adopted a child not a plant.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think your boyfriend should keep seeing his adopted child and not get his feelings hurt over what an 8 year old says to him. He could say, "You're correct, I'm not your biological father, but I'm your dad and I love you." And then he can say, "Sure, go spend father's day with bio dad if you wish."

I don't see why he can't spend father's day with bio dad. Even biological kids sometimes say hurtful things to their parents. It's a parent's job to keep parenting, even when their kid is being a jerk.

And if you think that's bad, the teen years are usually worse. Your boyfriend's adopted son has a bond with him, regardless of his new interest in bio dad. Over time, if your boyfriend keeps being a good father, the relationship with his adopted son will work out in the end.

Son can have a relationship with two fathers. They are not mutually exclusive.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I so wish your boyfriend's ex wasn't doing this.

I grew up adopted by my stepfather, who I thought of as Dad. I explain it to my son that he is my 'growing up dad' and my bio father, who I decided I wanted to meet, is my 'bio dad'.
I really wish everyone had given me space to have *both* my fathers and all of the parts of my family.

Adoptions can be reversed, with the consent of everyone involved. (I should add that I was an adult when the adoption was reversed, at the request of my bio dad, and my adoptive dad and I hadn't had a good relationship for about 15 years at that point. There's more, but I digress....) I have my own story of this; the short version is that I now have a fairly good relationship with both of my dads and am so glad to have them both as family in my life, especially for my son. People's egos have simmered down over time, as well. That said, your boyfriend cannot stop his son's bio dad from seeing him, and I wouldn't advise it, to be honest. Here's why....

It was around 9 years old that I realized I was adopted and began to fantasize about my bio dad. I met him when I was 14. *He was not the fantasy I thought he was*. As time went on, there was a lot of stuff we had to work through. So, when the glamour of meeting that magical mystery person is gone, there is a lot of stuff that comes up that needs to be addressed. It was good that I was able to do that and move past it. Your boyfriend's son may have some questions for his bio dad as he gets older; what your boyfriend doesn't want to do is just withdraw, because that's then two men who have abandoned him.

I hope your boyfriend can understand that there is a longer story here than just this present moment. It may be that the child he raised as his son will want to see him, once the novelty wears off. One of the things that breaks my heart was how hard it was on my adoptive dad, and I've apologized for the heartache and discussed this with him. But, again, this is a longer story, life. It's a hard place to be where your boyfriend is. He may want to talk to a counselor about this, because it's deep on several different levels. I'm sorry you are going through this.

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answers from Washington DC on


Welcome to mamapedia!!

Are you kidding me? The adoption process is FOREVER - not just on good days or bad days but for the kids life.

Your boy friend came with baggage. Don't like it? YOU LEAVE. NOT THE KID. Can't handle it? YOU LEAVE. NOT THE KID.

Your boyfriend needs to man up and be the dad. He signed up for it and took on the responsibility to be the parent of this child. Good times and bad. If there is a stipulation in the adoption about the biological father? He needs to go back to court and fight.

YOU need to stay out of it. You're not married to him. You support him. Or you leave. HE needs to document. HE needs to get everything in writing or recorded (and not without her knowledge). This is HIS responsibility.

good luck.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Note: Gamma, you only know what they told you. And, those situations are not the norm. They are not a basis for knowing for sure that an adoption can be reversed. In my many years of working in the courts I've never heard of an adoption being reversed. And a court is not going to order child support from someone not a parent. It would be illegal if he's not the father either by biology or adoption. There is more to those situations that you know. I can think of situations in which an adoption is reversed. You have not given a reason that would allow a reversal.
No, an adoption cannot be reversed. Your boyfriend is his Dad. Dad has all the parental rights he would have if his son was his biological father. His biological father has no rights. They were terminated before your boyfriend could adopt him. I suggest he should ask his lawyer this question. His lawyer knows the circumstances of the adoption.

I say this because I adopted my daughter and was told the above by the judge.

I urge both of you relax and continue with the visits. If his mother does not follow the divorce decree, you can go back to court. The court will enforce the decree.

I suggest it's good for his son to have a relationship with his bio dad. I also suggest that with time, his son will be more positive in his relationship with adoptive Dad. I suggest it's likely,if you are able to accept him in your son's life this will blow over. It's likely the bio dad will spend less time with him. Being Dad is new and exciting. It's also a way for him to get into the mother's life. He's not been around for years. He's unlikely to suddenly be a father figure.

You have 6 years of history with your son. He'll eventually realize that you are important to him, if you stay calm and let go of the fight. Insist he continue to have his time with you
Ignore mom's effort to turn your son away from you. Show him you're confident that he will always be his Dad. Don't show your hurt or try to change his mind. Be the Dad that you've always been.

It's normal for kids to say, "I hate you" and other similar things. Try to not take them personally. Tell him "nevertheless, I love you and I will always be your Dad."
I've found the term nevertheless quite useful in ending arguments. When said, the parent is accepting what the kid said while enforcing the rules or in your case, reminding him that you are his dad. No argument. "This is just the way it is."

I encourage you to let your son know that it's OK for him to spend time with his bio dad. Your son won't need to argue with you. Even tho it hurts, your son will be better off knowing his biological father. Your son will eventually realize you're the real deal and his bio father isn't. He'll figure it out quicker if he doesn"t have to convince you that his bio father is OK, that he wants to spend more time with him. This is not a competition.

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answers from Norfolk on

The way I understand it, if your boyfriend adopted the child, then his parental rights are intact and he can't be forced to sign them away - just as if he were the biological father.
I think the biological father would have HAD to sign away his rights in order for your boyfriend to adopt the child.
SO, if the ex is doing anything that would make a harmful environment for the child, your boyfriend might possibly be able to go to court and sue for full custody.
Really he needs to work closely with a lawyer that works with family law and with child protection services - he can always ask for a well child check up.
Your boyfriend can't control who the kids mom brings into the child s life just like his ex can't control who your boyfriend brings either (that's where you come in).
If you stay in this relationship, you have a potential for being this child s step parent for another 10 years.
It's going to be an uphill battle so settle in for a bumpy ride.
Voiding the adoption is not an option and it might not stop him from having to make child support payments anyway.
He signed up for this - your boyfriend is IN it for the duration.
If he gets full custody, then his ex will have to make child support payments to him.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I understood your initial post actually. Obviously you bf's ex is being very insensitive. She's only thinking one-sided. What a shame. I believe that the wisest thing for your bf is to get the court involved. He shouldn't nor is he equipped to handle this situation on his own. Representation is most definitely the smartest way to go.

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answers from Miami on

Your boyfriend can get this awful mother in trouble for lying about him to his son. The courts don't like this kind of stuff. He should tell the court exactly what is happening, what they are threatening. That they are trying to keep him from seeing his son.

When he tells the court how much he loves this child, I think that they will show the mom what they think of her behavior.

I also think that your BF should ask the court to have court-appointed counseling for the child. If the mother knows that a counselor is reporting her behavior to the court, she will shut her mouth. And I also think that she will stop this stuff as soon as she finds out that the court won't reverse the adoption and that your BF is going to legally be considered his father, regardless of the birth father being back in his life.

Show your BF this thread with all the answers. It will give him something to share with his attorney.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Well, adoption is forever - that's what adopted kids are always told. Adopted parents are "real" parents even if they aren't bio parents. So undoing it because a kid gets an attitude is really awful. The child is insecure - his bio dad disappeared on him, and your BF stepped in. Now bio dad is back (Lord knows what the mother said to the child about 'real dad' or why he's back), but the child isn't going to trust that. Who knows what the child is thinking - about whether he will leave again, or whether your BF will do the same thing and abdicate. Almost all adopted kids go through this at some point, and for some it is a lifelong struggle.

Children test adults. We don't respond by abandoning them and reversing an adoption. We respond by assuring them that we love them, no matter how much they misbehave, and that there is plenty of room in our hearts to love lots of people.

If the mother will not listen to your BF (and I assume you are NOT talking to her about this), then your BF must see a child psychologist/therapist and hopefully get the child (and maybe ultimately the mother and bio dad) into some family therapy. This child needs to know that he is lucky to have lots of people who love him - bio mom, bio dad, adopted/legal dad, and you. The bio mom may well be angry that her relationship with your BF broke up, and is trying to hurt him. Maybe she is jealous of your presence in his life, in which case she needs added reassurance that you are not a threat. If this doesn't get resolved, the child will misbehave in other ways and places - her house, school, camp, friends, etc. So therapy will be helpful for the whole family. You and your BF have to be patient, steadfast, reasonable, and consistent. You must treat this boy consistently and with high standards but without judgment and anything that he will interpret as rejection.

Your BF can see a lawyer I suppose, but that's SO premature and could be so devastating.

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answers from Dallas on

You don't just go back on a commitment when you make one such as adoption. Your BF legally adopted this child, he is legally this child's dad.. PERIOD

Bio dad gave up his rights when he signed off on adoption.

Get a family lawyer and address this now, legally. Get some counseling for the child because he has to be confused because bio dad did not want him and now bio dad is in the picture where he should NOT be at all.

What a shame to want to give a child back. I can imagine behavior issues... what child wouldn't?

What an A$$ of the bio dad and bio mom to do this to this child.

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answers from Chicago on

It is sad how selfish and thoughtless some parents can be, meaning the bio mom.

Honestly, if bio mom and dad loved him enough to want be a part of this boy's life, they would have sat down with all the adults and try to come up with a way to ease this shock on him and a way to co-parent.

It makes me think that bio dad's relationship may short term.

Regardless I think you should change the dynamic and have adoptive dad contact bio dad and get some communication started. Open that door and allow some supervised (meaning adoptive dad) visits. Let it be son and two dads or bio dad and son with adoptive dad near by in background.

As another person pointed out, this will help diffuse the boys need to defend his father, and maybe give adopted dad some control over the situation.

I also agree with going back to court and enforcing the decree as another person said. I would push on this.

I think making or attempting to make contact with bio dad would be seen as adoptive dad putting his sons best interests first and not blocking this relationship (which could be bio mom's agenda in court).

Tell your BF to keep fighting for his son. His son will realize this when he is older.

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answers from St. Louis on

I only see something wrong with what you want to do. So kids get difficult and you want to give him away like you would a pet? Unreal.

God I hope this is a troll. I frightens me how some younger parents see their children.

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answers from New York on

Trust and believe this is NOT confusing to the eight year old and this may not have anything to do with her wanting to hurt your boyfriend. This may just have to do with her son's right to know his bio dad and his bio dad's desire to know his son.

However the recourse your boyfriend needs to take would be through the courts since he adopted the child, he has legal rights which the bio dad gave up when he gave up his rights to his child.

Also note it is a good thing for any child to be loved by more people than less. If it were possible for all the adults in the child's life to drop their differences and do what was best for the child that would be the best.

It's time to lawyer up haul her into court and fight for your rights on behalf of the kid and not your own vanity.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

This kid is being pulled in so many directions, he makes gumby look inflexible. Give this poor little boy a break.

Instead of dumping the kid, your boyfriend needs to step it up and you need to move out of the way. This is a child! Your boyfriend is DAD. End of story. I don't give a flying fart in space about bio dad. Personally, I would meet with an attorney to get the visitations with bio dad stopped. He relinquished all rights to the child.

You can't just GIVE BACK a child. It doesn't work like that!

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answers from San Francisco on

I don't believe an adoption can be "reversed." Also, I would not stop the visits with the bio dad only because that will make the child hate you and your boyfriend - it will not make anything better. And no point discussing it with his mom - she's already brought bio dad into the picture - you can't change that now. Anything anyone does to stop the visits, is going to cause the child to hate that person. You could try talking to the child and acknowledging that bf is not his "real dad" but that he loves him as if he is; tell him you are not going to try to stop the visits, but hope and believe that he has enough love and room in his heart for both of his dads. Childhood is a very short time in a person's life. Even if the child does not really come around now, as he grows up, he will begin to understand. You have to patiently wait for that time. Let him spend father's day with whichever parent he wants as hard as it will be for bf. Just keep remember this is but a short season in life and it will pass. The more you allow him to explore this new relationship, the more he will love and admire you later.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Adoption is a legal process. If your boyfriend adopted his ex's child while they were married, your boyfriend is legally his parent, and as such, he has legal rights. The ex has no right to keep this child from your boyfriend just because they're now divorced because your boyfriend is legally the father.

That's not to say that bio dad may not have some rights (depends on your state and the terms of the adoption), but the ex should not be interfering with the relationship between your boyfriend and HIS SON! This is really, truly damaging to this innocent child.

Sounds like your boyfriend needs to be in closer contact with the lawyer and ask him/her specifically what can be done so that your boyfriend's time with his child is protected and how the child's best interests can be protected.

Children need stability and security. This little boy has had LOTS of changes in his tender 8 years. First bio dad leaves, then boyfriend becomes the legal dad, then parents split up, then dad gets a new girlfriend, then bio dad comes back into his life. Can you imagine what this does to the inner world of a child? Who'll be next to leave? Is it any wonder he "misbehaves?"

You sound like a kind and caring person, someone who really wants to help this little boy. Your boyfriend sounds like a good dad who wants to have a solid relationship with his son.
Have you and your boyfriend been together for some time? Are you living together? Have you talked about commitment and your long-term plan as a family? I don't ask to make any moral judgment, but if you are just the girlfriend for now, and there's no long-term commitment, that is not helpful to this poor child. For all he knows based on what's happened in his life, you could be gone next month with a new girlfriend in your place. I'm not saying that in any way against you and your boyfriend….it's just how kids look at it when there is a revolving door of boyfriends, girlfriends, and step-parents.

Your boyfriend's son didn't ask to have such a complicated family situation, but there he is, right in the middle of all of these adults who should be working together to see that HIS interests are protected and HIS needs are met. Family therapy will help you find ways to deal with the "misbehavior," which in a situation like this, is really not uncommon. Don't let the child become the scapegoat in this complicated adult relationship scenario. His "misbehavior" is telling you something.

Family therapy will also help you to find a way to communicate with the other adults in this child's life and develop strategies to get along or at least minimize conflict where the child is concerned. I know that it is not easy, but your boyfriend (and eventually, you, if you are going to someday be the step-mom) must do whatever is in your power to develop a cordial relationship with the bio mom and the bio dad, if he remains in the child's life. This cannot be overstated! You adults HAVE to find a way to work together in the best interests of this child. That's the job of the adults REGARDLESS of how they feel about each other.

Ask the court for help, and in the meantime, get with an experienced family therapist so that all of your energies can be focused on ensuring this little boy feels emotionally safe and secure and that the adults in his life truly have his back.

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answers from Boston on

ETA: Gamma G, what you describe is higly unlikely. I would imagine that there is more to those cases than you've been told. Termination of parental rights, which is what happens when an adoption is reversed, generally terminates any child support obligations. As a general rule, a person cannot be obligated to support a child that she or he is not legally recognized as the parent of.

Wow this is a tough situation. Not to be crass, but when financial support is involved, it's not just a matter of being the bigger person. I can see why your boyfriend would want to consider terminating his legal relationship with his adopted son, especially when that legal relationship carries with it a financial commitment while being marginalized. As a biological mom and step mom, I am putting myself in his shoes and if I had adopted my SD and we split up when she was a minor and I was paying child support for her, then my ex brought her biological mother back into her life and I was getting very little visitation, I would be sad about the loss of my mother-child relationship and pretty angry that I was making a financial commitment for a child after I was "replaced" in the relationship. That would seem terribly unjust to me.

Your BF could terminate his parental rights and by doing so, it would end his support and likely, his visitation. Typically for courts to allow that in a case where there is an involved parent who is financially supporting the child, there has to be proof that the other parent can support the child independently AND/OR that there is another parent (a new spouse, or the original biological parent) ready to step in a commit to the legal and financial obligation of parenting the child. This is parallel to the process that allowed your boyfriend to become the adoptive parent and terminate the rights (and responsibilities) of the biological parent.

If the bio dad being back in the picture is fairly new and he has a history of being flakey (presumably true given that he gave up his rights in the first place), I think you should encourage your boyfriend to commit to taking the high road for now. He will have to be very patient, and understand that his son feels caught in the middle (because he is). The pull between a child who was abandoned by a biological parent and the parent can be very strong. Give it 6 months or more and see if his true colors come back and he disappears, disappoints, or if the attraction fades after the kid gets to know him. If he has really turned over a new leaf and seems to want to take his place as the boy's father, and it really seems that that is in the best interest of the boy, then your BF would have to decide whether or not he's open to letting that happen and they can make legal arrangements to terminate his parental rights, child support and visitation and then the mom and bio-dad can work on getting those set up for the boy and the bio-dad. It doesn't mean that your BF has to disappear from the boy's life, but it does mean that he will no longer be just the paycheck while the bio dad gets to be the parent.

It's super-shitty that the bio mom is doing this, BTW. Kids can't have replacement parents shuffled in and out of their lives. I would also encourage your BF to find a counselor who can work with all of the adults in mapping out some rules of engagement. There is one that we did family therapy with who specialized in family reunification cases (we didn't need that but it happened to be something she did). So that is a family therapy specialty and an experience counselor can help the adults sort out some of this mess. Bio dad needs to either be in or out. He needs to know that this isn't a game or a hobby. Bio mom needs to understand that she can't just play house with whoever comes along either. They're both damaging this boys. It's a very complex situation. Encourage your BF to be patient and seek guidance so that he can eventually have some peace knowing that no matter what happens down the road, he was acting in the best interest of his son.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

ETA, Read your swh, sorry. It sounds painful. If he does get the adoption voided I hope he has a good attorney. I feel bad for your guy. Sounds like a good one.


I think that a court must sort this out. But yes, the adoption can be voided but that WON'T absolutely mean he won't pay child support until that child is 18.

I promise I know this for fact.

I have 2 guy friends who adopted a new wife's child then later on they got divorced. One of the dad's is disabled mentally and is unable to work. He was injured and has the mind of maybe a 12 year old. His EX had the adoption voided but the judge ordered child support and it's taken out by child support enforcement each month.

AND this lady is remarried and that guy adopted her kid. So she's not only able to file child support on the biological dad if she wanted to she has this guy who tried to be a stand up guy with her and her son that she's now using and won't forgive child support on him AND she has a new guy paying all her bills and that boy is calling him daddy now.

The other guy got the adoption voided and he refuses to pay the ex child support. He has tried several times to get it stopped. The judge won't stop it and will often raise it just a bit for taking up his time.

This is ignorant but it happens. So if he's just trying to get out of having anything to do with the kid he has to go to court and get it voided. Try to make the mom sign off that she doesn't want child support. Maybe file for the whole summer as your visitation or for all holidays for the whole year. Something absolutely frightening for her. Then say you'll drop the case IF she signs off that she doesn't want child support. Get her to do that in writing if at all possible then when you go to court have your attorney put that in the written document. Otherwise she can come back on him years from now and file for back child support.

Seriously, some women give us a bad name. Greedy women piss me off.

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answers from Boston on

JB, I agree with you. I put myself in that situation as the adoptive SP and it would seem very unfair.In a similar, recent post--I answered that financial support was probably an issue and also that there may be pressure from a new relationship in the case of why a SD refuses to see the child he raised as his own. It seems that this post proved both my statements.

What I think is sh-tty as a mother described, is that a biological parent can flake on raising and financially supporting a child, but not this adoptive step parent--he is held to a higher obligation and higher moral than the biological parent.

ETA: you explained yourself clearly initially.....

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