Adult adoption is a legal process that allows individuals to establish a legal parent-child relationship with an individual 18 years or older.
While adult adoption is less common than child adoption, it is less complicated and cheaper than adopting a child.
Adult adoptions differ from traditional adoptions in several ways:
- In adult adoptions, there is no obligation to notify the biological parent or seek their consent.
- In adult adoptions, the adopting parents are not required to demonstrate abandonment by the biological parent, and there is no need for a Guardian ad Litem, which streamlines the process and reduces costs.
- In adult adoptions, criminal background checks are not a prerequisite.
Can You Legally Adopt an Adult?
While adult adoption laws vary from state to state, 39 states (36 states with no age limit and 3 with age limits) have laws that make it legal to adopt an adult. The reasons behind adopting an adult can be diverse – from formalizing existing familial relationships to providing support and care for a loved one. While the exact requirements may differ, the fundamental principle is that both parties, the adopter(s) and the adoptee, must be willing participants in the adoption.
Common Reasons For an Adult Adoption
While the laws regarding adult adoption can vary from state to state, here are some common and lawful reasons for an adult adoption:
1. Adult Stepchild Adoption
The most common form of adult adoption is stepchild adoption. Stepchild adult adoption often occurs after a long and stable marriage or relationship between a stepparent and an adult stepchild.
The reasons for pursuing adult stepchild adoptions can vary, but some common motivations include the following:
- Strengthening family bonds: Through the adoption process, the adult stepchild and the stepparent can solidify their legal and emotional connection. It allows them to formalize the parent-child relationship that may have developed over time.
- Inheritance rights: Adopting creates a legal parent-child relationship, erasing the distinction between biological and adopted children regarding inheritance rights. As a result, the adopted stepchild would have the same rights to inherit from the adoptive parent as any biological children of the adoptive parent.
- Legal Rights: When an adult stepchild is adopted by their stepparent, they typically gain several legal rights and privileges, such as medical and social security benefits.
- Emotional and psychological benefits: Adult stepchild adoptions can provide both the adoptee and the adoptive parent with a sense of belonging, identity, and security. It can create a stronger sense of family and foster deeper commitment and support.
- Symbolic gesture: Some families choose adult stepchild adoption as a symbolic gesture to acknowledge the existing bond and commitment between the stepchild and stepparent. It can be a public declaration of their love and dedication to each other.
2. Legal Inheritance Rights
Adult adoption can also facilitate the transfer of inheritance rights, property, and assets. Formalizing the legal relationship can make it less likely that other heirs will challenge the inheritance.
Example of an Adult Adoption For Inheritance Purposes
I once had a client who was a successful business owner. He had no spouse or children. His only relatives were gold diggers, and he did not want to pass his business or inheritance on to them.
He worried about potential challenges to his will if he passed the company to a nonrelative. However, he had an employee whom he considered a son.
He proposed the idea of adult adoption to transfer the business ownership and inheritance to the employee. They pursued the adoption, which a judge approved. Ultimately, upon the business owner’s death, the company smoothly transitioned to his new son without any will disputes from other heirs.
3. Adult Adoption Due to Sickness or Disability
Adult adoption due to the sickness or disability of an adult is a less common but still significant occurrence. In such cases, a person may adopt an adult with health challenges for various reasons. Some potential motivations include:
- Legal decision-making: Through adult adoption, the adopting individual gains legal authority to make medical and care-related decisions on behalf of the adopted adult. This can be crucial in situations where the adopted adult cannot make decisions for themselves due to their illness or disability.
- Caregiving and support: Adult adoption can formalize an existing caregiving relationship between the adopting individual and the sick or disabled adult. It solidifies the commitment to provide care, support, and assistance to the adopted adult, ensuring their well-being and quality of life.
- Financial and insurance benefits: Adoption can grant the adopted adult access to financial benefits, such as health insurance coverage or disability benefits. This can help alleviate the financial burden associated with their illness or disability.
- Long-term planning and security: By adopting an adult with a sickness or disability, the adopting individual can ensure long-term care, guardianship, and support for the adopted adult. It provides peace of mind regarding future planning and safeguards the well-being of the adopted adult in the event of the adopting individual’s incapacity or passing.
4. Foster Parents and Foster Child
It is not uncommon for there to be adult adoptions from foster care. This situation usually occurs when a foster parent develops a close bond with a child under their care but cannot adopt them while the child is still a minor.
In some cases, the circumstances that prevented the foster parent from adopting the child while they were a minor could include legal complexities, parental rights, or other factors that made adoption difficult or not feasible at the time.
However, once the child reaches the age of 18 and legally becomes an adult, the foster parent can pursue adoption.
5. Reconnecting With A Birth Family
Individuals who were given up for adoption by their birth parents often have the desire to find and reconnect with them often.
I have seen numerous adult adoptions after a person reconnects with their birth parent. Adult adoption can legally formalize their bond with their birth parent, providing emotional closure and a renewed sense of belonging.
The Legal Consequences That Occur With an Adult Adoption
The legal consequences of adult adoption can vary from state to state. However, there are several common legal implications associated with adult adoption:
1. Parent-Child Relationship Is Legally Established
Adult adoption establishes a legal parent-child relationship between the adoptive parent and the adopted adult. This creates legal rights and responsibilities, such as inheritance rights, mutual financial obligations, and the ability to make medical and legal decisions on behalf of the adopted adult.
2. Name Change
In some cases, adult adoption allows the adopted adult to change their name, assuming the surname of their adoptive family and potentially updating other legal documents accordingly.
3. Inheritance Rights
Through adult adoption, the adopted adult typically becomes eligible to inherit from their adoptive parent(s) in the same manner as a biological child. This includes the right to receive assets, property, and financial benefits according to the applicable inheritance laws.
4. Parental Rights and Obligations
Adoptive parents assume legal responsibilities and obligations towards the adopted adult, such as financial support, medical care, and emotional nurturing. Likewise, the adopted adult may have legal rights to claim support or other benefits from their adoptive parent(s).
5. Termination of Prior Legal Relationships
Adult adoption will result in the termination or modification of legal relationships with the adoptee’s biological or previous legal parents, including the termination of any legal rights, obligations, or inheritance claims associated with those relationships.
However, please note that in some states, an adoptee can retain the right to inherit from the adoptee’s former parents if the adoption decree so provides.
Factors that May Prevent Court Approval of Adult Adoptions
The legality and specific requirements for adult adoptions can vary from state to state, so it’s important to consult the laws in your jurisdiction.
However, there are some common scenarios where a court may not approve or consider adult adoptions illegal:
1. Adoptions for Immigration Fraud
Adoption for immigration fraud is not considered ethical or legal. Immigration authorities in most countries have measures to prevent abuse of the adoption system for fraudulent immigration purposes.
It’s important to note that attempting to deceive immigration authorities by engaging in fraudulent adoption practices can have serious legal consequences, including criminal charges, deportation, and future immigration complications.
2. Financial Exploitation and Inheritance Abuse
Financial exploitation and inheritance abuse can occur in various contexts, including through adult adoption.
Financial exploitation through adult adoption typically involves a vulnerable or infirm individual being persuaded or coerced into consenting to adoption to secure an inheritance or gain control over their assets.
In such cases, the motive behind the adoption is not genuinely for the well-being of the adoptee but rather to manipulate the inheritance process.
If a court is suspicious that a person is attempting to exploit a vulnerable or infirm person, the court will order an investigation. If there is any suspicion of foul play, the court will deny the petition for adult adoption.
3. Lack of Consent or Coercion
If there is evidence that the adoption is being forced or coerced upon any of the parties involved, such as through threats, manipulation, or undue influence, the court is unlikely to approve the adoption.
4. Age Difference
Several states have an age difference requirement of at least ten years for adult adoptions.
States That Allow Adult Adoption Regardless of Age
36 States allow the adoption of any person, regardless of age. Here is the list of all states that will allow adult adoption irrespective of age:
|State||Statute Number||Consent of Adoptee’s Spouse Required?|
|Alaska||Alaska Stat. § 25.23.020||Yes. Alaska Stat. § 25.23.050|
|Arkansas||Ark. Code § 9-9-203||Yes. Ark. Code § 9-9-206|
|California||Cal. Fam. Code § 9300||Yes. Cal. Fam. Code § 9301|
|Colorado||Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-1-101||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Delaware||Del. Code tit. 13 § 903||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted. Del. Code tit. 13 § 907|
|Florida||Fla. Stat. § 63.042||Yes. Fla. Stat. § 63.062|
|Georgia||Ga. Code § 19-8-21||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Hawaii||Haw. Rev. Stat. § 578-1.5||Yes. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 578-2|
|Indiana||Ind. Code § 31-19-2-1||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Iowa||Iowa Code § 600.5||Yes. Iowa Code § 600.7|
|Kansas||Kan. Stat. § 59-2113||Yes. Kan. Stat. § 59-2140|
|Kentucky||Ky. Rev. Stat. § 405.390||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted. Ky. Rev. Stat. § 405.390|
|Maine||Maine Stat. Title 18-C §9-302.||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Maryland||Adults are not barred from being adopted, and adopting an adult follows the same basic process as for adopting a minor. Md. Code, Fam. Law § 5-3A-35||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Michigan||Mich. Comp. Laws § 710.24||Yes. Mich. Comp. Laws § 710.24|
|Minnesota||Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 905.01||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted. Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 905.01|
|Mississippi||Miss. Code § 93-17-3||Yes. Miss. Code § 93-17-3|
|Missouri||Mo. Rev. Stat. § 453.030||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 453.030|
|Montana||Mont. Code § 42-4-401||Yes. Mont. Code § 42-4-403|
|New Hampshire||N.H. Rev. Stat. § 170-B:3||Yes. N.H. Rev. Stat. § 170-B:3|
|New Mexico||N.M. Stat. § 40-14-5||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted. M. Stat. § 40-14-6.|
|New York||N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law § 110||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|North Carolina||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 48-5-101||Yes. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 48-5-102|
|North Dakota||N.D. Cent. Code § 14-15-05||Yes. N.D. Cent. Code § 14-15-05|
|Oklahoma||Okla. Stat. tit. 10 § 7507-1.1||Yes. Okla. Stat. tit. 10 § 7507-1.1|
|Oregon||ORS § 109.329||Yes. ORS § 109.329|
|Pennsylvania||23 Pa. C.S. § 2311||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Rhode Island||R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-7-4||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|South Carolina||S.C. Code § 63-9-1120||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Tennessee||Tenn. Code § 36-1-117||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted. Tenn. Code § 36-1-117|
|Texas||Tex. Fam. Code § 162.501||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted. Tex. Fam. Code § 162.504|
|Utah||Utah Code § 78B-6-115. Utah law requires anyone adopting a “child” must be 10 years older than the adoptee. This statue does not appear to apply to adult adoptions. Utah Code § 78B-6-118.||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Vermont||Vt. Stat. tit. 15A § 5-101||Vt. Stat. tit. 15A § 5-103|
|Washington||WA Rev Code § 26.33.140||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Utah Code § 78B-6-115. Utah law requires anyone adopting a “child” must be 10 years older than the adoptee. This statute does not appear to apply to adult adoptions. Utah Code § 78B-6-118.||W. Va. Code § 48-22-801||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
|Wisconsin||Wis. Stat. § 882.01||No. Requires only the consent of the person to be adopted.|
States That Require The Adult to be Adopted Must Be Younger Than The Adoptive Parent
There are states that require the adopting parent be older than the person being adopted. Those states are:
|Connecticut||Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-734.||Person being adopted must be younger than the person adopting.|
|Massachusetts||Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 210 § 1||Person being adopted must be younger than the person adopting.|
|Nevada||Nev. Rev. Stat. § 127.190||Person being adopted must be younger than the person adopting.|
States That Have Specific Limitations on Adopting an Adult
Alabama Adult Adoption Law
Under Alabama law, Section 26-10F-6, adult adoption is permissible with the following conditions:
- The adoptive party must be 19 years of age or older. If a couple is adopting, they must adopt jointly.
- The adult being adopted must consent to the adoption.
- The adult being adopted is either related to the adoptive party by blood or marriage, or has lived in the adoptive parent or parents’ home for a period of one year before the filing of the adoption petition.
- The adoption should have legitimate reasons and should not be used for fraudulent purposes such as immigration fraud or financial fraud.
Arizona Adult Adoption Law
Under Arizona law, adult adoptions are permitted with specific requirements as per the following:
- An adult person can adopt another adult who is at least eighteen years of age but not more than twenty-one years old. The adult being adopted must consent to the adoption.
- Alternatively, the adult person being adopted can be a current or previous stepchild, niece, nephew, cousin, or grandchild of the person adopting.
- A foster parent may adopt an adult who was placed in their care as a juvenile if the foster parent has maintained a continuous familial relationship with that person for five or more years.
- The adoption agreement must be approved by a decree of adoption of the court in the county where either the person adopting or the person being adopted resides.
This process establishes a legal parent-child relationship and can lead to a change in the adoptee’s name if requested. This is according to Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 14-8101.
Idaho Adult Adoption Law
Under Idaho law, an adult may adopt another adult if the adopter has sustained a parental relationship with the adoptee in the following ways:
- For a period exceeding one year while the adoptee was still a minor; or
- For such a period or in such a way that, upon investigation, the court determines that a substantial family relationship has been established.
The adoption process establishes a legal parent-child relationship between the adopting adult and the adopted adult. This is according to Idaho Code § 16-1501.
Illinois Adult Adoption Law
Under Illinois law, adult adoptions can occur with the following conditions:
- The adult to be adopted must have resided in the home of the prospective adoptive parents for more than two years continuously before the start of the adoption proceedings.
- Alternatively, the prospective adoptive parents can adopt an adult if they are related to the adoptee within a degree set forth in the definition of a ‘related child’ as defined in Section 1 of the Adoption Act.
This process establishes a legal parent-child relationship between the adopting adult and the adopted adult. This is according to 750 Illinois Compiled Stat. 50/3.
Louisiana Adult Adoption
Under Louisiana law, the adoption of an adult can occur under the following conditions:
- An adult person can be adopted without court authorization only when the adoptive parent is the spouse or the surviving spouse of a parent of the person to be adopted.
For other proposed adult adoptions:
- The court, upon receiving a joint petition from the adoptive parent and the person to be adopted, may authorize the adoption of a person who has reached the age of majority (an adult).
- The court must find, after a hearing, that the adoption is in the best interest of both parties involved.
This process legally establishes a parent-child relationship between the adopting adult and the adopted adult. This is according to Louisianna. Civ. Code art. 212.
Nebraska Adult Adoption Law
Under Nebraska law, the adoption of an adult is limited in Nebraska. In Nevada, you only adopt an adult in two situations:
- The adopting adult is the spouse of the adult child’s parent, regardless of whether the child was born in or out of wedlock.
- The adult child has had a parent-child relationship with the prospective adoptive parent(s) for at least six months prior to reaching the age of majority. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-101.
New Jersey Adult Adoption Law
According to New Jersey law, the adoption of an adult can occur under the following conditions:
- The court must be satisfied that the adopting parent or parents are of good moral character and of reputable standing in their community and that the adoption will be to the advantage and benefit of the person to be adopted.
- The adopting parent or parents must be at least 10 years older than the person to be adopted.
- The person to be adopted must request the adoption and, if desired, the change of name, in writing, with the request being acknowledged by the person to be adopted as deeds are required to be acknowledged.
- The court may waive any or all of the above requirements if it is satisfied that the best interests of the person to be adopted would be promoted by granting the adoption. Any such waiver should be recited in any judgment of adoption thereafter entered.
This process establishes a legal parent-child relationship between the adopting adult and the adopted adult. This is according to New Jersey Stat. § 2A:22-2.
Ohio Adult Adoption Law
In Ohio, an adult may be adopted under the following circumstances:
- If the adult is totally or permanently disabled.
- If the adult is determined to be a person with an intellectual disability.
- If the adult established a child-foster caregiver, kinship caregiver, or child-stepparent relationship with the petitioners as a minor and consents to the adoption.
- If the adult was, at the time of their eighteenth birthday, in the permanent custody of or in a planned permanent living arrangement with a public children services agency or a private child placing agency and consents to the adoption.
- If the adult is the child of the spouse of the petitioner, and the adult consents to the adoption.
These conditions establish the grounds for an adult adoption in Ohio, effectively creating a legal parent-child relationship between the adopter and the adoptee. This is according to Ohio Rev. Code § 3107.01.
South Dakota Adult Adoption Law
In South Dakota, the law permits the adoption of an adult under the following conditions:
- An adult can adopt another adult by filing a petition for adoption with the judge of the circuit court, along with a written agreement stating that the person being adopted shall be treated in all respects as a natural child of the petitioner.
- The written consent of the person being adopted is required.
- It is also a prerequisite that the person being adopted must have lived in the home of the adoptive parent for at least six months while the adoptee was under twenty-one years of age. This fact must be included in the petition.
- However, if the person being adopted is the biological child of the adoptive parent, the requirement of living in the adoptive parent’s home during the adoptee’s minority is waived.
These provisions establish the legal framework for adult adoption in South Dakota. This is acording to South Dakota Codified Laws § 25-6-18.
Virginia Adult Adoption Law
In Virginia, the law allows for the adoption of an adult under the following conditions:
- A stepchild eighteen years of age or over, provided they have stood in loco parentis (in the place of a parent) for a period of at least three months.
- A close relative, eighteen years of age or older.
- Any person eighteen years of age or older who is the birth child of the petitioner or who had resided in the home of the petitioner for at least three months prior to becoming eighteen years of age.
- Any person eighteen years of age or older, for good cause shown, provided that the person to be adopted is at least fifteen years younger than the petitioner and the petitioner and the person to be adopted have known each other for at least one year prior to the filing of the petition for adoption.
This process creates a legal parent-child relationship between the adopting adult and the adopted adult. This is according to Virginia Code § 63.2-1243
Wyoming Adult Adoption Law
In Wyoming, an adult may be adopted under the following conditions:
- The person to be adopted can reside either within or outside of Wyoming at the time the adoption petition is filed.
- The adopting parent must have been a stepparent, grandparent, blood relative, foster parent, or legal guardian who participated in the raising of the adult when they were a child.
- The adult wishing to be adopted must file a consent to the adoption with the court.
These guidelines define the process for adult adoption in Wyoming, as per Wyo. Stat. § 1-22-102.
Steps to Obtain an Adult Adoption
While the specific steps for adult adoption may vary slightly from state to state, a general process is commonly followed. Here are the typical steps involved in adult adoption:
- Determine Eligibility: Before starting the adoption process, make sure that both the adoptive parent and the adoptee meet the eligibility requirements in your specific state. This can include age, residency, and relationship requirements.
- Obtain Consent: In every state, the adopted person must consent. Some states also require the consent of the adoptive parent’s spouse, if applicable.
- Prepare the Adoption Petition: The next step is to prepare the adoption petition, which is the legal document that will be submitted to the court. This petition will include necessary information such as the adoptive parent’s and adoptee’s names and addresses, the relationship between the two, and the reasons for the adoption.
- File the Adoption Petition: The adoption petition is filed with the court in the county where the adoptive parent or the adoptee lives. There may be a filing fee associated with this process.
- Attend a Court Hearing: A court hearing will be scheduled after the adoption petition is filed. During this hearing, a judge will review the adoption petition and ask any necessary questions to ensure that the adoption is in all parties’ best interests.
- Finalize the Adoption: If the judge approves the adoption, an adoption decree will be issued. This legal document finalizes the adoption and establishes a legal parent-child relationship between the adoptive parent and adoptee.
- Change of Name (if desired): If the adoptee wishes to change their last name, this can usually be done as part of the adoption process. The new name will be reflected in the adoption decree.