If you file an adoption petition, and the judge denies it, you can appeal the denial. There are many reasons why an adoption petition will be denied. Some of them may be easy to rectify, while others may mean that an appeal is unlikely to be successful. It is important to involve an attorney if you are not already working with an attorney, since the court requirements are usually specific, and a knowledge of state-specific adoption law is crucial.
Be sure to check your court order to determine how much time you have to appeal; some states' deadlines may be as short as two weeks.
As noted above, the specifics of the adoption petition appeal process will differ from state to state. However, all states will have a time period by which the appeal must be filed. That means that if your petition is denied, you should contact an attorney immediately to get the appeal process started. The time period may be short, and courts may be strict about dismissing appeals after the deadline.
Reasons for Denial
If you are working with an agency, they may have already alerted you to potential reasons why your application may be flagged or denied. For example, if a prospective adoptive parent has a criminal record, the petition may be denied. On appeal, the potential parent can argue that they are fit to be a parent and show evidence of their parental fitness. The court is supposed to be an unbiased decision maker, and the appeal will allow potential adoptive parents to make the case that adopting the child would be in the best interests of the child.
Another reason why a petition may be denied is because there is paperwork or another requirement of the adoption process that is missing. Denials for an accidental omission can potentially be rectified by submitting the necessary information.
If the denial is a surprise, there may be a mistake with the paperwork or another misunderstanding during the process. This can also possibly be corrected, depending on the error.
Sometimes the petition is denied because of an issue on the birth parent’s side. For example, a birth parent may decide to revoke consent, or a biological relative may step up to adopt the child. (Biological relatives of the child will almost always be given preference in the adoption process.) Depending on the reason, potential adoptive parents may or may not be able to salvage the adoption under these circumstances.
If Your Petition is Denied . . .
Make sure you file your appeal before the appeal deadline.
Double-check the paperwork you originally filed and check for errors and omissions.
Understand the legal standards applied by courts when an objection to an adoption is filed by a family member, as well as the rights of biological parents in the adoption process.
While specific state laws will differ, there are a few overarching (and sometimes competing) family law principles that will apply in all adoption petition appeals. One principle is the right of a biological parent to parent their child. For example, if the biological father objects to the adoption at the last minute and decides to parent, the adoption will probably be denied as long as he is a fit parent. Even if the adoption is all but finalized, and the prospective adoptive parents seem to have a better foundation for parenting than the biological father, unless he is proven to be an “unfit” parent, he will be allowed to remain the parent of the child.
Similarly, family courts will try to keep the child with biological relatives if at all possible. The court will also try to keep biological siblings together if at all possible. That means that if there are two potential adoptive families, and one family is willing to take the whole sibling group, all other things being equal, the court will usually place the children in a home where they can remain together.
Finally, family courts also use “the best interests of the child” standard to guide almost all of their decisions. State law and individual judges may interpret the best interests differently, but at the end of the day, the courts are trying to make sure that the child has the best outcome while also respecting parental rights.