Adult Adoption Laws

The majority of adoptions involve babies and children under the age of majority (generally 18), often by parents who can't conceive a child on their own. But most states also allow for the adoption of adults. There are several reasons for adult adoption, such as formalizing a relationship with a step-child or helping someone with disabilities.

The following provides a general primer on adult adoption laws, including examples of state adoption laws and other resources.

Reasons for Adopting an Adult

The adoption of adults is not common, but the legal arrangement afforded by adoption can provide important benefits for certain individuals. Adult adoption is generally done for the following reasons:

  1. Inheritance rights;
  2. Formalizing an existing parental relationship; or
  3. Perpetual care for a disabled adult.

One of the most common reasons to adopt an adult is for inheritance. Adoptees, along with other biological and adopted individuals, are the first in line to inherit from intestate decedents (who die without a will). For those who die with a valid will in place, adoption can provide additional protection in the event that it's contested by another party, since only legal relatives have standing to defend against a will contest.

In other cases, an adult may want to formalize the parent-child relationship with a step-parent or former foster parent. This may include a name change and be done mostly for symbolic reasons, but it also affects the adoptee's inheritance rights regardless of the adoption's intent. Also, this process can help with family reunions, for example fathers connecting with children they didn't previously know they had.

Finally, the adoption process can help a disabled or mentally challenged adult get needed care. For instance, someone who adopts a developmentally disabled adult may add them to their health insurance coverage, make important decisions on their behalf, and ensure that they're covered financially after they're deceased (through inheritance).

State Adult Adoption Laws

State laws govern the conditions and availability of adult adoption. States that allow adoption of adults have certain requirements such as proof of a parent-child relationship or a specified age difference between the adoptive parent(s) and the adoptee.

In addition, the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 allows states to extend guardianship or adoption to individuals between 18 and 21 who've exited foster care.

If you're considering the adoption of an adult, you'll want to take a closer look at the laws of your state. The following is just a sampling of state adult adoption laws:

  • California - Petition must state the length and nature of the parties' relationship; degree of kinship (if applicable); reason the adoption is sought; statement as to why the adoption would be in the best interests of the parties involved; names/addresses of any living birth parents or adult children of proposed adoptee; and information about any previous adult adoptions.
  • Kentucky - Anyone 18 or over may be adopted "in the same manner as provided by law for the adoption of a child and with the same legal effect" as long as the adult adoptee's consent is given.
  • New Jersey - Adopting parent(s) must be at least 10 years older than the adoptee, who must consent to the adoption in writing and (of desired) a change of name.
  • Ohio - An adult may be adopted if the adult is "totally or permanently disabled," determined to have an intellectual disability, has an established parent-child relationship with adoptive parent, is a former foster child over the age of 18, or by a step-parent.
  • Wyoming - An adult may be adopted if the adopting parent was a stepparent, grandparent or other blood relative, foster parent or legal guardian who participated in the raising of the adoptee when they were a child; and the adult consents to the adoption.

Have Questions About Adult Adoption Laws? Talk to a Lawyer

If you're considering adopting an adult to reconnect with a long-lost child, to care for a disabled person, or for some other reason, you'll want to understand the specific laws and regulations of your state. An experienced adoption law attorney licensed in your state can walk you through the procedure and make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney specializing in adoptions.

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