A person may apply to the County Court of Victoria to undo the legal effect of an adoption order. This is known as ‘discharge of adoption'.
If the Court makes an order to discharge an adoption, the adoption ceases to exist and the person is no longer an adopted person or legally connected to the family that adopted them. They become legally reconnected to their birth family.
Adoption orders may be discharged by the Court on the grounds that the adoption order or a consent for the purposes of the adoption order was obtained by fraud, duress or other improper means.
An adoption order may also be discharged where there has been a breakdown of the relationship between the adoptive parents and the adopted person.
An application for discharge of an adoption can be made by:
- an adopted person or adult to whom the adoption order relates
- a natural parent of the adopted person
- an adoptive parent of the adopted child
- Secretary of the department or the principal officer of the approved agency by which the adoption was arranged.
How to apply for a discharge of an adoption order
A formal application needs to be made to the Court. The Court has issued a Practice Not to assist application (External link). Application forms are available from the Court.
During the adoption proceedings, the Court may require the Department of Justice and Community Safety to conduct an investigation about the application and prepare a report for the Court’s consideration. The person making the application should meet with a case manager from the department as part of the investigation.
A case manager may contact several people where appropriate to complete the report for the Court. This may include members of the adopted person's birth and adoptive families, and other significant people in their lives.
You may wish to seek legal advice in relation to discharging an adoption order.
Adoption orders made under previous adoption acts
The discharge provisions of the current Adoption Actapplies to any adoption order granted in Victoria under any Adoption Act that was the law at the time.
Consent of parents
The consent of natural parents and adoptive parents is not required for the Court to make a discharge order in relation to an adult adopted person. The other parties to the adoption may oppose the application for the discharge of an adoption order. In such cases the application may proceed to a contested hearing in the Court.
Adopted from another country
If you have been adopted from another country, you can apply for the discharge of your adoption order. There may be particular legal issues depending on what country you were adopted from.
Anything that lawfully occurred as a result of your adoption - such as obtaining Australian citizenship - should not be affected by your adoption order being discharged.
After discharge of adoption
If your adoption order is discharged, this will mean that your birth parents will once again become your legal parents, and your adoptive parents will cease to be your legal parents.
You will need a new birth certificate because your post-adoption birth certificate is no longer correct, as the adoptive parents are no longer your parents at law.
On making a discharge order, the Court may make orders in relation to your entry on the Register of Births and to your name.
If the adoption order is discharged by the Court, an adopted person may seek an order for their birth certificate to be amended to reflect this change.