Adults can be adopted! My family has taken part in an adult adoption.
My husband adopted my daughter when she legally became an adult, at the age of 18 years old. Because our daughter’s biological father would not consent to a stepparent adoption, we had to wait until she turned 18 and was able to consent to the adoption herself.
Some might wonder, if she is an adult, what is the purpose of an adult adoption? And why can an adult be adopted in the first place?
For our family, our daughter felt strongly that she wanted to legally recognize the person who she felt had done the job of being her father her whole life.
Legally speaking, it also helps when it comes to inheritance in the future, since she has a binding legal relationship with him now.
Inheritance is a big factor when thinking about adult adoption and if an adult can be adopted or should be adopted.
If there is a close relationship between two people, but no legal relationship, inheriting from one another can be difficult. It is much easier to contest inheritance that is left to someone where there is no legal relationship.
Another instance in which the adoption of an adult may occur is when a child “ages out” of foster care. If a child has been with a foster family for a long period of time, and they are bonded, they may wish to adopt. However, in some cases, adoption isn’t an option when it comes to older children. The legal rights of their parents may not have been terminated, and there may not be an effort to do so before they become legal adults.
In an instance like this, when a foster child becomes a legal adult, a family may wish to adopt the child as an adult when they can consent to their own adoption and parents do not need to give permission or terminate their rights.
In some situations, adopting a former foster child as an adult is also helpful to the family who is actively fostering children. To keep the child in their home, after they have aged out of the system, can become complicated. It can, in some cases, affect their ability to continue taking in other children. If they legalize the relationship with an adoption, they are now able to make the decisions on what type of help and care they provide to the child, rather than having an agency tell them what they are able to do.
This also gives the child a forever family to come back to as they begin to navigate the adult world and learn about adult responsibilities. Some agencies frown upon foster parents that continue support of children who have become adults and aged out of the system. It doesn’t seem like it should be considered a negative, however, at times, it can be. Pursuing a legal adoption frees both the child and the foster family from any negative repercussions that may occur without the legal relationship.
Sometimes, adult adoption is a way for LGBT couples to be able to be legally recognized as parents to children that they have raised together. While some states may not recognize both parents because they are a same-sex couple, pursuing adoption to legalize the family relationship is sometimes a motivator.
While some of the reasons for the adult adoption may be emotional and relationship based, it is important to realize there are legal consequences when adopting an adult.
Again, inheritance is one of the things to consider when thinking about adopting an adult. The adoption may help the adoptee with legal rights to inheritance and make it more difficult for other family members to contest anything left to the adoptee in a will. It will also give the adoptee rights in the event that the adopter would die without a legal will in place.
If one adult adopts another adult, they are now legally considered to have a parent/child relationship. As such, this gives the adopted adult rights to inheritance when the other adult becomes deceased. It may also give them rights to other family inheritance, such as grandparents, or other close relatives, who may leave part of their estate to the children of the adopter.
The adoptee must also consider that they have legally severed ties with their biological family and are no longer a legal child of their biological family. This may prevent them from the ability to be granted any inheritance from their biological parents or relatives.
For instance, if the adoptee was unaware that long lost Aunt Beatrice was wealthy, and passed away leaving her estate to her only sister (the biological mother) and her children, the adoptee is no longer legally entitled to Aunt Beatrice’s inheritance. The relationship between the adoptee and biological family has been severed legally.
Adult adoption can be quite complicated when it comes to inheritance and legal matters. While the adoption itself is often quite easy to obtain, there are many legal aspects to consider.
Obtaining the adult adoption is often inexpensive and quite simple. The process can often be done without legal counsel and very inexpensively considering typical adoption costs.
You would need to check the requirements for adult adoption in your state. Some states require an age gap between the adopter and adoptee to show a parent/child relationship, while others do not have any age limitations. Some states have little rules in place when it comes to adult adoptions. Because the adoptee is able to consent to the relationship, and is an adult, so financial support and custody situations aren’t an issue, the court doesn’t tend to get too involved in the matter. The typical basic requirement is that the adoption is in the adoptee’s best interest. However, each state has its own guidelines.
Can you adopt an adult for the purpose of being able to care for them if they are disabled or incapable of self-care? Yes, you can adopt an adult for this purpose. However, the case may be more complicated than an adult adoption where disabilities are not a factor. Click this link to read about one such adoption story between adult caregivers and an adult adoptee with special needs.
When a person with disabilities enters adulthood and still relies on continued care, a caregiver may be able to legally adopt them. This may allow the caregiver to continue being able to help with decisions, to help with insurance coverage, and then to legalize a relationship for inheritance purposes. In order to obtain permission to adopt an adult who is disabled, there may be more court scrutiny, as the adoptee may not be allowed to consent if they have a mental disability. However, if the caregiver has a relationship with the potential adoptee, and is willing and able to take on their care, even as they reach adulthood, they are usually able to pursue legal adoption. The adoptee may need a court-appointed advocate to independently assess the situation and give their recommendation that the adoption is in the best interest of the adoptee.
The adoption of an adult does not have all of the same implications as the adoption of a child. Because the adoptee is legally an adult, the adopter is not held financially responsible for the adoptee. There is no child support or other commitments. If the adoptee has any legal trouble, they are responsible for this on their own, and it is not made the responsibility of the adopter. That said, the adopter can decide on their own if they would be willing to help with any monetary or legal issues of the adoptee. An adoption may give the adopter legal rights to be involved in legal or medical matters they would otherwise not have the legal right to be involved in. For instance, the adopter may be able to make medical decisions and act as a guardian for the adult adoptee after legal adoption.
While you may not have considered adult adoption, it is not an uncommon practice. And if you are thinking about becoming an adult adoptee or an adult adopter, it is likely an easier process than you think. A quick search of laws in your area can help you decide if it is in your best interest to pursue legal adoption and what steps to take to get the process started.
Often, paperwork to petition the court for an adult adoption is readily available online. Both adult parties fill out paperwork, often with a notary, that is then filed with their local courts. Typically, a hearing is scheduled in which a judge will review the petition, interview both parties, and decide if the adoption is in each party’s best interest. Because both parties involved are consenting adults, the process is usually very easy, and the adoption is most often granted. Again, there may be more needed in the situations of disabled adults if they are unable to give consent based on cognitive disabilities.
Once a judge signs an adoption petition, and it is filed, the adoption is legal. Just as in the case of minor child adoptions, there is now a legal parent/child relationship established between the adult parties. However, due to both parties being adults, the relationship requires little responsibility to maintain.
There have been instances documented of adults in a relationship trying to adopt each other. For whatever reason, they try to pursue an adoptive relationship instead of a marital relationship. In these cases, adoption is an inappropriate step, as the relationship is meant to reflect that of a parent and child relationship. If the two adults are in a sexual relationship, adoption would make that relationship illegal and wrong. This should go without saying, but the adoption relationship should not be shared by individuals who are romantically involved.
This has sometimes been the case when two adults are trying to manipulate inheritance laws and seek a larger amount of inheritance by legally entering a parent/child relationship. For instance, if the parents of one party have a will giving money to grandchildren, but not to spouses of their children.
In a case such as this, monetary reasons are clouding the legal judgment of individuals, and a court should not consent to an adoption relationship between the two adults.
Money can motivate people to do strange things, including adopting for the wrong reasons.
Adoption is something that should be sought with good intentions and honest goals. While inheritance is a valid reason to pursue an adult adoption, it should only be within parent/child relationships.
If you feel parental toward a person who is an adult and share a close bond, you may be able to adopt them and make the bond legally recognizable. Again, most often adult adoptions occur between stepparents and child or former foster children and foster parents. Relatives may be willing to pursue the adoption of an adult relative in the event that their biological parents are deceased or unavailable to the child. Or if someone is adopting minor children who have adult siblings, they may decide to include the adult sibling in the adoption process as well, should that adult sibling be interested in remaining in a legal sibling relationship. If all siblings are not adopted together, their legal bond is broken and no longer recognized by the court system. This does not mean that they cannot have a relationship or continue to be siblings. It is just a reflection on their legal status and that they no longer share a legal relationship. This would impact their legal rights to inherit from each other in the future.
So while inheritance is the primary motivator in adult adoptions (with the exception of the adoptions of disabled adults), it should be recognized that adoptions can occur for a variety of reasons and should be pursued only by those in a parent/child type relationship.
Recognizing the effects on other relationships is very important when considering adult adoption. If you are unsure of all the ways you will be changing biological and adoptive relationships, you may want to seek the advice of an attorney prior to entering into any legally binding matters. Adoptions are meant to be permanent relationships between a parent and a child and are not meant to be entered into unless the intention is one of becoming lifelong family.
Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.