The ABCs of Adult Adoption: Can You Adopt Someone Over 18?

The ABCs of Adult Adoption: Can You Adopt Someone Over 18?

Adopting someone over the age of 18 may seem unusual, but it is indeed a reality for a variety of reasons. Adult adoption is a legal process that establishes a formal parent-child relationship between two consenting adults, offering the same rights and responsibilities as the adoption of a minor. This can be particularly important for those wishing to formalize a personal connection or secure inheritance rights.

While adult adoptions are generally less complex than minors, they have unique legal requirements, challenges, and implications. Whether you’re considering adopting a stepchild, reconnecting with a biological parent, or creating a new family bond, understanding the legal process and requirements for adult adoption is essential in making an informed decision for both parties.

Key Takeaways

  • Adult adoption establishes a legally recognized parent-child relationship between two consenting adults
  • Legal process and requirements should be understood before proceeding with adult adoption
  • Adult adoption can be motivated by personal connections, inheritance rights, and other factors

Understanding Adoption of Adults

Adopting an adult is a process where a legal parent-child relationship is established between two individuals, one of whom is over the age of 18. Adult adoption can create a sense of belonging, secure inheritance rights, and foster deeper emotional connections between the adoptive parent and the adoptee. Let’s explore the key aspects involved in adult adoption.

Adult adoption occurs when an individual over 18 (or the age of majority in some jurisdictions) wishes to be adopted by another adult. This process is less complicated than adopting a child since only the consent of the adult wishing to be adopted and the person willing to adopt is required.

The reasons people may want to adopt an adult can vary, including wanting to formalize an existing parent-child relationship, such as when a stepfather wishes to adopt a stepchild but did not have permission from the biological father or when a foster child ages out of the system, and the family wants to maintain permanent ties.

First, you’ll need to file an adoption petition with the court to initiate an adult adoption. This document typically includes information about both parties involved, the reasons for the adoption, and any supporting documentation or consent forms.

Signing the adoption consent forms, one of the most important steps in this process, ensures that both the adoptee and the adopter fully understand the legal implications of their decision and willingly agree to it. Remaining transparent and communicating openly about all aspects of the adoption process can help facilitate a smooth and successful outcome.

As you navigate adopting an adult, you must stay informed about any specific guidelines and requirements within your jurisdiction. Requirements may vary, and in some cases, applications can be rejected due to inconsistencies or incomplete documentation. Being diligent and familiarizing yourself with the rules can make the entire process a more positive and rewarding experience.

The Legal Process

When adopting an adult, it’s essential to understand and navigate the legal process properly. This section will guide you through the critical aspects of adult adoption, including consent, court proceedings, and legal documentation.


As you embark on the adult adoption process, be aware that consent is a crucial aspect. Both the adopting party and the adult being adopted must be comfortable with the arrangement and provide their written consent. In most states, the adopting parent(s) must also be at least 10 years older than the adoptee.

Consider involving an attorney to ensure that all parties understand the implications of adult adoption. This will help in obtaining the necessary consents and ensuring a smooth process.

Court Proceedings

Once the necessary consents have been obtained, it’s time to proceed with the court proceedings. An adoption petition must be filed with the appropriate court in your jurisdiction. In some cases, a hearing might be required, where a judge will assess the validity of the adoption petition.

During the court proceedings, it is essential to have an attorney present who is well-versed in adult adoption laws. They can help prepare the required documents, represent your interests in court, and obtain a court order to finalize the adoption.

Legal Documentation

After the court proceedings have taken place and the judge approves the adult adoption, your attorney will prepare the necessary legal documentation. Some of these documents include:

  • A new birth certificate for the adopted individual that reflects the new parent-child relationship.
  • Legal papers severing any existing relationships with biological or custodial parents.
  • Documents related to a name change, if desired by the adoptee.

It’s crucial to follow proper legal procedures and consult an attorney throughout the adult adoption process. This ensures that you and your newly adopted family member can enjoy the benefits, rights, and responsibilities that come with a new parent-child relationship.

Requirements for Adult Adoption

General Guidelines

To adopt an adult, there are some general guidelines you should follow:

  • Both parties must consent: The adult wishing to be adopted and the person willing to adopt must consent.
  • Legal paperwork: You must submit the necessary documents and follow the legal process prescribed by your state laws.
  • Reasons for adoption: It’s essential to have valid reasons for adult adoption, such as formalizing existing familial relationships or providing support and care to the adoptee.

Age-related Requirements

Each state might have different age-related requirements for adult adoptions. However, some common aspects include:

  • Adoptee’s age: The potential adoptee must typically be at least 18, although some states may have different age limits.
  • Age difference: The adopting parent(s) must usually be at least ten years older than the adoptee.
  • State laws: Some states have no specific age limit for adult adoption, while others may impose age restrictions. Be sure to check your state’s regulations.

Health and Disability Considerations

When adopting an adult with disabilities or diminished capacity, be mindful of the following:

  • Consent: If the adult adoptee has an intellectual disability or is mentally disabled, they may need a legal guardian or representative to provide consent on their behalf.
  • Capacity: Assess whether the adoptee understands and agrees to the adoption process. Consult with medical professionals if necessary.
  • Support: Ensure you’re prepared to provide the necessary support, care, and accommodations for the adoptee’s specific health or disability needs.

By adhering to these guidelines and requirements, you can smoothly navigate the adult adoption process and create a lasting bond between you and the adoptee.

Impacts of Adult Adoption

Rights and Responsibilities

When you adopt an adult, you establish a legal parent-child relationship. This brings about several rights and responsibilities for both parties involved. Here are some key aspects:

  • Parental Relationship: You will be recognized as the legal parent of the person you adopt, regardless of age.
  • Biological Parents: The adoption process severs the legal ties between the adopted person and their birth parents. As a result, the birth parents no longer hold any legal rights or responsibilities.
  • Stepparents and Stepchildren: The parent-child relationship extends to them if a stepparent adopts an adult stepchild. This reinforces the family bond and makes their relationship legally recognized.

Inheritance Implications

One of the significant impacts of adult adoption is inheritance. Adopting an adult affects inheritance rights in several ways:

  • Legal Inheritance Rights: Once you adopt an adult, they become your legal heir. They will have the same inheritance rights as your biological children. When you pass away, they can inherit your property, assets, and other entitlements.
  • Birth Family: After adoption, the adoptee loses any legal inheritance rights from their birth family. The legal connection between the adopted person and their birth parents is severed.
  • Family Dynamics: Adult adoption can sometimes create tension within the family, especially if their inheritance is a concern. But it can also foster unity when the adopted person is treated equally and fairly among other family members.

Family Dynamics

Adopting an adult can have various effects on family dynamics, both positive and negative. Here’s how:

  • Strengthened Bonds: Adult adoption often reinforces existing family relationships. For example, adopting a foster child who has aged out of the system can create permanent ties and a sense of belonging for them.
  • Legal Recognition: The adoption process provides legal recognition and validation to relationships that may have already formed, such as those between stepparents and stepchildren or reunions between birth parents and their children.
  • Potential Conflicts: It’s essential to be aware that adult adoption might lead to conflicts within the family, especially if inheritance becomes a contentious issue. However, open communication and clear expectations can help resolve these challenges.

Remember, adopting an adult is a life-changing decision for everyone involved. It’s vital to weigh the rights, responsibilities, inheritance implications, and family dynamics as you consider this important step in building and strengthening your family.

Special Cases of Adult Adoption

Adopting from Foster Care

When a foster child turns 18 and ages out of the foster care system, you might still want to maintain a strong and permanent relationship with them. In such cases, adult adoption can be an option. This process allows you to legally recognize and formalize the parent-child relationship that has already been established during their time in foster care.

  • Emotional Stability: Adopting an adult from foster care provides them with emotional stability and a sense of belonging they might have missed out on.
  • Legal Benefits: The adoption grants both parties the same rights and privileges as a biological parent-child relationship, such as making medical decisions and providing perpetual care.

Stepparent Adopting Adult Stepchild

Another special adult adoption case involves stepparents who want to adopt their adult stepchild. This scenario typically arises when the stepparent has played a significant role in raising the stepchild and wishes to solidify their bond legally. Some key points to consider for adopting an adult stepchild are:

  • Biological Parent’s Consent: In most cases, the biological parent’s consent is unnecessary. However, it’s essential to consult your state’s laws and guidelines.
  • Age Requirements: While the adopted adult must be over 18, they must usually be younger than the adopting stepparent.
  • Existing Parent-Child Relationship: A strong, ongoing relationship between the stepparent and the stepchild is crucial in making the adoption process possible.

Adopting for Inheritance or Caregiving Purposes

Adult adoption can also occur for inheritance or caregiving purposes in specific situations:

  • Inheritance: In some cases, adult adoption might be considered to ensure that an individual can inherit property, estate, or trusts that would otherwise be limited to direct family members.
  • Perpetual Care: Adult adoption can ensure the adopted individual receives lifelong care, especially if they have special needs or require assistance. The legal ties that adult adoption creates ensure that the adopted adult’s needs are adequately addressed.

Remember that the adoption laws and requirements vary across states, so consult a legal professional to ensure the adoption process runs smoothly and adheres to your state’s regulations.

Adoption agreement

Potential Challenges and Solutions

When considering adopting someone over 18, knowing potential challenges and their solutions is important. This section will address the legal obstacles and financial considerations you may face in adult adoption.

Legal Obstacles

Adult adoption comes with its own set of legal challenges. First, it’s crucial to understand the laws and regulations in your jurisdiction. Some states may have specific requirements or restrictions that complicate the process.

Solution: Consult an adoption attorney. A knowledgeable family law attorney can help you navigate the legal intricacies and guide you through the adoption process. They can also advise handling potential fraud cases and staying compliant with your state’s laws.

Financial Considerations

Adopting an adult might come with some financial considerations. There could be fees associated with the court filings, an adoption attorney’s service, or obtaining updated legal documentation like a new birth certificate.

Solution: Budget and plan accordingly. Research and estimate the costs of adopting an adult in your area, then allocate the necessary funds. Remember to account for possible contingencies and unexpected expenses. Some tips for managing your finances during the adoption process include:

  • Break down the costs: Identify the various fees and expenditures related to the adult adoption process, such as court fees, attorney fees, and document processing expenses.
  • Create a budget: Establish a budget with estimated costs to track your expenses and ensure that you stay within your financial means throughout the process.
  • Seek professional advice: Consult with financial planners and your adoption attorney to accurately gauge the costs and potential financial impacts of adopting an adult. They can help you identify potential financial pitfalls and create a tailored strategy.

By addressing these potential challenges, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions as you move forward in the adult adoption process, ensuring a smoother experience for both you and the individual you are adopting.

International and State-Specific Regulations

Adoption Laws in the United States

In the United States, adult adoption laws vary from state to state, with 39 states allowing the adoption of adults. The main reasons for adopting an adult include formalizing existing familial relationships and supporting and caring for a loved one. Regarding international adoption, adult adoptees comprise foreign-born individuals who are now 18 years of age or older. To complete an adoption, you must demonstrate that you’re eligible to adopt and can provide proper care to a child through forms like I-800A and I-600A.

Ohio Regulations

In Ohio, adult adoption is generally prohibited. The state specifically disallows adoption for those over 21, except when the adoptee meets certain guidelines. However, since the adoption process is managed on a state rather than federal, you should consult local authorities and legal professionals to ensure you abide by Ohio’s specific regulations and requirements.

Wisconsin Laws

Wisconsin is one of the 36 states that don’t have a specific age limit for adoption, allowing adults to adopt other adults legally. However, as with any other state, Wisconsin has its specific rules and regulations, so it’s crucial to work with local professionals and authorities to help guide you through the process successfully. It is important to gather relevant documentation, such as proof of citizenship and marital status, to satisfy the required eligibility criteria.


Adopting someone over 18 is possible, thanks to adult adoption laws. This process can be beneficial for various reasons, such as establishing a legal, familial bond between people who already have a close relationship or forming new connections between individuals who seek the benefits of a family bond.

When considering adult adoption, it’s essential to understand that consent is required from both the person wishing to be adopted and the person willing to adopt. It’s a legal procedure that requires filing an adoption petition with the court and signing adoption consent forms. Be prepared for possible variations in guidelines and requirements, as they can differ depending on the jurisdiction.

In summary:

  • Adult adoption is legally allowed for people aged 18 and older
  • Consent from both the adoptee and the person willing to adopt is crucial
  • The process involves filing petitions and signing consent forms
  • Keep in mind that guidelines and requirements might vary by jurisdiction

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that while adult adoption can create and strengthen emotional bonds, it also has legal implications. Understanding the process, requirements, and potential outcomes can help ensure all parties make well-informed decisions. So, if you’re considering adopting an adult or being adopted yourself, remember to weigh the benefits and responsibilities carefully and seek professional guidance where necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements for adult adoption?

The primary requirement for adult adoption is the consent of both the adoptee (the adult wishing to be adopted) and the adopter (the person willing to adopt). Other requirements may vary depending on the state, so it is essential to research local laws and regulations. Some states may also reject applications if there is a perceived conflict of interest or inappropriate motivation behind the adoption.

How much does it cost to adopt someone over 18?

The cost of adult adoption can greatly differ depending on various factors such as attorney, court, and documentation fees. It’s important to research your specific case and contact professionals who can estimate your circumstances more accurately.

In which states is adult adoption allowed?

Adult adoption is permitted in many parts of the United States, but the laws and guidelines may differ from state to state. Researching your specific state’s regulations and consulting with an attorney or legal expert to determine eligibility and procedure is crucial.

What are the legal benefits of adult adoption?

Adopting an adult grants various legal benefits, such as inheritance rights, access to medical information, and securing family relationships in the eyes of the law. It also helps adoptees gain legal acknowledgment, which can serve important emotional and practical purposes.

Can you adopt a friend as a sibling?

While adopting a friend may not automatically grant them a “sibling” title, the adult adoption process can still apply. With mutual consent and following the proper legal channels, you can legally adopt a friend and establish a recognized family relationship.

What is the process for adult adoption?

The process of adult adoption generally follows these steps:

  1. Research state-specific laws and regulations regarding adult adoption.
  2. Obtain the consent of both the adoptee and adopter.
  3. Retain an attorney or legal expert to guide you through the process.
  4. Submit the proper documentation, forms, and fees to the court.
  5. Attend a required hearing, where the judge will review and authorize the adult adoption.

Remember to consult with an attorney or legal expert in your state to ensure you follow the correct procedures for your case.