When most individuals think of adoption, they imagine a scenario where a minor child is parentless and is adopted by a new family and is dependent upon them for their emotional and financial needs. Individuals are not likely to be concerned when an individual adopts a 5 year old child than when they are adopting a 35 year old adult.
Adoption, however, is not limited to minor children. The reasons an individual may adopt an adult are not that different from those reasons for adopting a minor child.
When an individual becomes an adult as opposed to a minor is determined by the laws of the state in which they reside. In many states, a minor is an individual under the age of 18. However, in some states, an individual is not an adult until they reach the age of 19 or 21.
While many states have adult adoption laws, some states strictly prohibit adult adoption. Even in states in which adult adoption is permitted, there will be strict requirements which must be met prior to beginning the adoption process.
If an individual is considering adopting an adult, they may wish to consult with an attorney in their state in order to determine what the procedures and requirements are. Regardless of any variations in state laws, an adoption requires a court approval before it can be finalized.
In many states, it is legal for an adult to adopt another adult so long as there is at least a 10 year age difference between the individuals and they are able to demonstrate why the adoption is in the best interest of both parties as well as the public good. In many cases, adult adoptions are step-parent adoptions that the family did not complete while the individual was a minor but they now want to ensure the individual has complete inheritance rights.
In some cases, an older adult that does not have children of their own may meet younger individuals whom they wish to treat as their children for inheritance purposes. In many states, there are protections in place for the oversight of adult adoptions where caregivers of an elderly individual are involved, in order to prevent elder financial abuse.
Why Adopt an Adult?
As noted above, there may be many reasons for adopting an adult. These reasons may also include:
- Estate planning;
- Real property taxes; and
- Formalizing existing relationships.
Estate planning is one of the most common reasons for an individual to adopt an adult. This is because adoption makes property transfers easier under inheritance laws.
The law grants certain rights to individuals in a parent-child relationship. Once an individual has been legally adopted, the law will allow the adopted child the same rights and privileges to inherit their parent’s property as that of a biological child.
A parent-child relationship may also have additional benefits in relation to real estate and real property taxes. In some states, for example, property can be transferred between a parent and a child with minimal tax consequences due to their special relationship.
Adult adoption also allows individuals to formalize existing relationships. This may occur in cases where an individual has served as a foster parent or has grown particularly fond of an adult with whom they have developed a parent-child relationship.
If an adult adoptee is incapacitate in some way and an individual has been taking care of them, they may wish to ensure their ability to continue doing so and to make important medical decisions for them by formally adopting them. In addition, individuals may have married later in life and wish to adopt an adult child of their new spouse.
In other cases, if a birth parent gave away their child when they were young, they may wish to renew their biological claim to their child once that child reaches adulthood. Formally adopting an adult child can make the parent-child relationship official in the eyes of law.
What is the Adult Adoption Process?
The procedures for adoption are determined by each individual state. However, an individual can expect to encounter some of the same requirements across the states whether they are seeking to adopt a minor child or an adult.
Typically, the individual will petition the appropriate state court in order to begin the adoption process. The adoption petition must include paperwork showing that the adult consents to being adopted.
In certain cases, spousal consent may also be required. There may be a hearing regarding the adoption. Either way, the court must issue a formal court order prior to the adoption becoming official.
Similar to the adoption of a minor child, once the adoption is approved, the adoptee will be issued a new birth certificate. The adoptee’s relationship with their biological or custodial parents will be severed and the birth certificate will reflect the adoptive parents as the individual’s parents.
How Much Does Adult Adoption Cost?
Adult adoptions are not as common as infant or child adoptions. Generally, the cost of an adult adoption is around $800 on average.
However, adoption lawyer fees may range from $100 to $1,500 in the United States. In some cases, a stepparent or kinship adoption may cost less than $100.
It is important to note that the individual may also be required to pay attorney’s fees in addition to the cost of the actual adoption. Typical adoption attorneys charge an hourly fee which can range from $200 to $300 per hour. Some attorneys may also charge a flat fee for a simple, uncontested adoption with no special concerns or circumstances.
Can I be Prohibited from Adopting an Adult?
Yes, an individual may be prohibited from adopting an adult. One of the most obvious reasons an individual may be prohibited from adopting an adult is that the state specifically prohibits adult adoptions or the adult is older than the maximum age for adoptions in the state. In addition, the individuals may not meet the minimum age difference between adopting parent and adult adoptee.
In addition, even if a state permits adult adoptions, an individual may be prohibited from adopting an adult due to incest laws. In other words, if the individual and the adult adoptee are involved in a sexual relationship, the individual will not be permitted to adopt that adult as their child.
Lastly, if a court finds any evidence of fraud, the adoption petition will be rejected. For example, in some cases, wealthy elderly individuals are targeted by individuals who wish to inherit their assets and property. In these cases, the court will want to ensure the reasons for the adoption are lawful.
Do I Need a Lawyer’s Help to Adopt an Adult?
Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of an adoption attorney if you are considering adopting an adult or if you have already begun the process. As noted above, the requirements vary by state and your attorney is best equipped to advise you regarding the laws in your state.
Your lawyer will assist you in presenting your adult adoption case to the court as well as represent you if you are required to appear in court. Your lawyer will ensure your adoption case meets the criteria of your state and is processed as efficiently and as quickly as possible.