Who May Be Adopted?

Families in the United States come in all sizes and from unique situations. Expanding a family through adoption is exciting but it can also be complicated. Although individuals have many options for locating children available for adoption, prospective parents should be aware of applicable state restrictions. This article provides a brief overview of who may be adopted in the U.S. and its territories.

General Requirements for Adoption

Judges in adoption courts look to the best interests of a child when making adoption decisions. In addition to showing that adoption would be optimal for a child's upbringing, potential parents must also meet general requirements provided by adoption laws. Some of those conditions include the following:

  • Five states (Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, Texas, and Wisconsin), American Samoa, and Guam specify that the child must be legally free for adoption.
  • Six states (Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming), American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a require the child to be present in the state at the time the adoption petition is filed.
  • Iowa requires the child to have lived in the home of the prospective adoptive parents for a minimum of 180 days.

State Age Requirements

All states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories permit the adoption of a child. Some states have additional requirements as described below.

  • Approximately twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia allow the adoption of any person, regardless of age.
  • Colorado, Rhode Island, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands allow parties to petition the court for the adoption of persons over age eighteen but under twenty-one years old.
  • In Massachusetts and Nevada, the adult to be adopted must be younger than the adoptive parent.
  • West Virginia and Wisconsin require the adoptive parent of an adult be a resident of the state.

Adoption of Adults: State Requirements

As seen from the section above, there are instances when an adult may be adopted. Here are some examples of when adults are eligible for adoption:

  • Alabama restricts adoption of adults to persons who are permanently and totally physically or intellectually disabled.
  • Ohio permits adoption of an adult when either 1) the person is totally or permanently disabled (physically or intellectually), or 2) is a stepchild or foster child with whom a parent-child relationship was established while the child was a minor.
  • Idaho, Illinois, and South Dakota require that the adopting parent be in a sustained parental relationship for a specified period of time with the adult to be adopted. The time period ranges from six months to two years depending on the state.
  • Virginia permits the adoption of an adult stepchild, niece, or nephew if the following conditions are met: the adopted person 1) lived in the prospective parent's home for at least three months prior to reaching adulthood and 2) is at least fifteen years younger than the adopting parent.

Have Additional Questions About Who May Be Adopted? Ask a Lawyer

If you're interested in becoming an adoptive parent, you may want to consider contacting an experienced adoption attorney who can answer questions specific to your circumstances and explain the adoption process in your state.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney specializing in adoptions.

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