How Long Does an Adoption Dissolution Take?

Sometimes adoptions do not work out, leading to a dissolution.

Adoption dissolution, or disruption, is the eradication of a legalized adoption. It is commonly instigated by the parents through a court petition and occurs because of psychological or behavioral issues the parents may not have been informed of prior to the adoption. Additional causes for dissolution include unrealistic expectations or a lack of preparation.


Dissolving an adoption requires much deliberation. Ultimately, the child's wellbeing and interests are paramount to making an informed decision. Of course, it is best for all parties involved to disclose all applicable information so as to minimize the possibility of dissolution. Doing so gives the parents an opportunity to learn more about the child and the risks that may be involved in adopting.


A minority of finalized adoptions actually dissolve. It's been estimated that only between 1% and 10% of completed adoptions reach the stage of dissolution. The statistics vary from state to state and may lack some accuracy because once a child has been legally adopted, his file is officially closed. This practice makes it difficult to track any changes after the adoption process. In the state of New York, roughly 3.3% of adopted children landed in foster care after four years of being adopted. In Kansas City, an estimated 3% of adopted children were living outside of their adoptive parents' homes within two years after adoption. In Iowa, 8% of adopted children were, after four years, placed out of the adoptive parents' homes.


Research indicates that the rate of dissolution is proportionate to the child's age at the time of adoption and ethnicity. According to studies, dissolution of adoption is more common for male or non-Hispanic children. Additionally, people who adopt special needs children are confronted with increased struggles and challenges that make the adoption difficult to maintain. Two common barriers to adoption success are a lack of resource information and the cost of services.


While there is no specific timeframe for when an adoption dissolution is finalized, it is recommended that you speak with an attorney or your adoption agency to get a more accurate timeframe. The timeframe depends heavily on the type of adoption that took place, the age of the adopted child, the reason why the adoption is being disrupted, as well as state laws. The dissolution process may take anywhere from one month to one year, again depending on your independent situation.

If the adoption has not been finalized, the disruption process is quite simple. It requires primarily signing a paper declaring that you wish the adoption to be reversed, releasing you from responsibility.

However, if the adoption has been finalized, the court's involvement is required. In some cases, the court may order you to continue to provide child support payments until the child has been adopted by another individual or turns 18 years of age, whichever comes first. Ultimately, it is up to the judge whether the relationship is dissolvable. If the adoption lawyer is able to make a case that it is unsafe for the child to continue living in the home, the judge may choose to dissolve the adoption.