Adopting an Adult- Can You Legally Do That?

Adopting an Adult- Can You Legally Do That?

This post was most recently updated on May 19th, 2023

A surprisingly small number of people are aware of adult adoption and think adoption only applies to children and adolescents. There are many reasons for adult adoption and a plethora of information you should be privy to before you decide to go ahead with the process.

In legal terms, adult adoption involves giving legal rights as one’s parent to a person over 18. In other words, it is like the adoption of an individual who has reached the age of majority.

Once the court has finalized your adoption, the court acknowledges your new family connection to your parents, and additionally, you will receive a new birth certificate.

How to Adopt an Adult

The adult adoption process is much simpler compared to that of minors. You are unlikely to need a lawyer, and most of the time, the process can be completed within 90 days or less.

The important thing is the consent of the adoptee and in some cases their spouses in addition to the fees involved and the adoption papers for adults.

Remember that adoption is managed at a state rather than a federation level. Nevertheless, there are some basic steps to follow for all adoptions.

  1. Getting all the required documents from the courthouse, which includes consent and petition forms.
  2. Then these must be signed and notarized before submission.
  3. File all the documents with the court clerk once they are ready and submit them. Now you have to wait for a hearing date at the Family Court.
  4. Once the family judge decides in your favor and gives the adoption order, you can officially welcome the new family member. Make sure to have an additional copy of the order at hand.
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The Adult Adoption Process

Following the application for the adoption, you may be given dates for the trial, where the judge will decide whether the adoption will be approved or not.

If the adoption is approved, all legal ties and inheritance rights are terminated between the adopted adult and the birth/custodial parents. A new birth certificate is issued identifying the adoptive parents as the legal guardians.

The adoptee is also eligible to switch their surname to match that of their adoptive parents though this may require a qualified attorney.

Why Do Adults Adopt Adults?

Adult adoption is less common but not unheard of. You may think that adults don’t need parental supervision or consent, so why would they be adopted? There are plenty of reasons for adult adoption.

  • Inability to adopt during childhood- Often, some can’t adopt a child when they are minors for various reasons. Then when the child is of age, these restrictions no longer apply, and they can be adopted.
  • Lack of consent from birth parents- If the birth parents are against the adoption, then one cannot adopt a child. But once the child reaches legal age, parental consent is no longer necessary for adoption.
  • Family Bond- Many begin to grow close bonds with a child through foster care, friendship, or other situations, which only progress with age. Adoption becomes the means to establish that relationship legally, no matter the age.
  • Stepparents- Stepparents don’t have parental rights over their stepchildren. Over time if the child grows fond of the parent and wishes to be adopted legally as their child.
  • Sibling Adoption- If the parents have passed away or are incapable of fulfilling the parental role then a sibling may adopt a younger sibling who is an adult. However, not all states allow sibling adoption.
  • Adult dependent- For adults with special needs, a caretaker may assume the role of a parent to take care of the individual for the rest of their lifetime. This is often termed perpetual care. The adoptive parents will be able to make decisions on behalf of the adoptee adult and even include them in the family health insurance plans.
  • Legal Inheritance rights- Inheritance is easier and less likely to be challenged if there is a legal relationship between both parties. Hence many people choose to adopt the ‘heir’ to the inheritance, especially if they are not biologically related.
  • Reconnection to birth family- If an adult reunites with their birth family later on in life, they can choose to be adopted by them.
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Adult Adoption Laws

Adoption laws vary between states and can even bar you from adoption based on several grounds, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • There must be a specific age difference between the parent and the adoptee, with the parent being older by at least ten or more years.
  • There cannot be any sexual relation in the past between the adoptive parent and the adoptee due to incest laws. This bars same-sex couples from having rights over each other. On the other hand, some states allow for this to allow for inheritance rights.
  • Spousal consent may be required in some states if the adoptee is married, but the spouse can withhold adoption only if their reason stands valid in court.
  • Adoption cannot be done to support criminal activities. The process may be halted if there is a reason for suspicion. A rich elderly cannot be pressured to adopt someone for the sake of an inheritance
  • Some states require notice given to the birth parents before adoption.
  • States like Alaska, Alabama, and others prohibit adoption in case of adoptees who have reached the maximum age.

Additionally, some states require that there must be a prior parental relationship between the adoptee and adoptive parents for a specified period, while others require that the adoptee is the child of a spouse and/or is permanently disabled.

Nevertheless there are at least 30 states that allow for adoption irrespective of age though some of these states only allow adoption to the residents of that state.

International Adult Adoptions

International adoptions are more complex than domestic ones, which gets trickier when adult adoption is brought into the mix. Not only are adoptees subjected to adoption and immigration laws, but they also undergo intense scrutiny by government officials.

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For more information regarding the legalities and the procedure, check The U.S Department of Homeland Security website as well as Title 8 Code of Federal Regulations 8 CFR 204.2(d)(2) and Section 101(b)(1)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.


Adoption is a bittersweet experience for most. There are numerous trials and tribulations to overcome before you can finally reunite with a loved one.

Whether the reason for the adoption is emotional or to care for adult dependents, the process may be confusing for many. Thus it is best to hire the help of a professional adoption lawyer with experience in adult adoption to help you navigate the process.

Sikander Zaman
writing is my profession, doing this from long time. writing for many online websites one of them is scoopearth