Can an Adult be Adopted? Adopting Someone Over Age 18

One may be able to come up with many reasons why adopting an adult should be allowed. This brings to mind the question, can an adult be adopted?

An adult can be adopted after the age of 18, and the process is less complicated than adopting a child. Perhaps a stepfather wanted to adopt a child but did not have permission from the biological father. Or, a foster child ages out of the system, but the family wants permanent ties.

There are many reasons why an adult may be adopted, and it happens more often than you might think.

Let’s dive into the most common reasons why an adult may be adopted.

Mother being hugged by her young adult son.

Why Do Adults Want to Be Adopted?

There are several reasons why an adult may wish to be adopted. Let’s go over a few of those reasons.

Legal Inheritance Rights

One motivation for adult adoption could be legal inheritance rights. If two persons do not have a legal relationship, one of them may not be able to inherit easily.

Adopting a formalized connection makes inheritance considerably easy and less likely to be questioned. Although inheritance rules are complex, having a legally recognized relationship between persons makes the issue less confusing and easier to manage within the confines of the law.

Caregivers Adopting Adults With Handicaps

In rare circumstances, caregivers of people with physical or mental health issues may adopt the adult so that they can legally assist with their care.

When an adult is unable to care for themselves, having someone who can be legally responsible for their care and decisions is beneficial.

Adoption can make the work of caring for them easier if the individual assisting them isn’t a legal parent.

If the original parents are unable or unwilling to care for their adult child, another adult caregiver may pursue formal adoption to make it simpler to offer legal care.

This enables one adult caregiver to legally make choices on behalf of another adult who is unable to do so.

Ever wonder if an adoptive mother can breastfeed her adopted baby? This may surprise you.

Foster Parents Adopting Their Adult Foster Child

Adult adoption can take place in foster care. If a family has fostered a child and built a strong attachment with them, the child and family may decide to acknowledge that bond when the child reaches the age of majority.

This is especially beneficial for children who have aged out of foster care and do not want to be reunited with their birth family.

They can then officially formalize their relationship with their foster family and make it permanent.

The adoption of minors in foster care is not widely promoted in some communities. As a result, if an adolescent wishes to be adopted, it is possible to do so beyond the age of 18.

Again, the adoptee can agree to their own adoption at this age, and no additional parents are required. It helps in this circumstance that the biological family does not need to be contacted or participate in the adoption consent process.

The adult kid has the option of communicating their decision or not.

Birth Family Reunification

Adult adoptees who were adopted as children have been known to seek their birth relatives in rare instances.

When a good reunion occurs and familial relationships are created, the biological family may choose to legalize their relationship through adult adoption.

The biological parents would once again be the legal parents of the previously adopted child. The adoptee should be informed that inheritance from their prior adoptive family may be more difficult as a result of this.

When the child grows up and seeks biological ties, he or she may discover that they feel more at ease with their biological family than with the family that reared them.

In certain situations, people may seek to sever legal connections and reinforce their biological family’s bond.

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Stepchild Being Adopted as an Adult

Oftentimes, a stepparent wants to adopt their stepchild, yet the biological parent will not consent to the adoption.

If the stepparent was more of a parent to the child than the biological parent was, the stepparent and child have the opportunity to make it official once the child reaches the age of 18.

Once the child is an adult, permission from a biological parent is not needed for the adoption to take place.

When you adopt your adult stepchild, they also become eligible to inherit from you as a legal heir.

When an adult is adopted, the person adopting has no financial obligation of child support, so the official adoption is more a sign of a bond that is being acknowledged through legal means.

Adopting your adult stepchild is more of a symbolic gesture to validate the bond between the stepparent and stepchild.

We all know that it takes more than sharing the same blood to make a parent-child relationship.

So many stepparents play an active parental role when the biological parent is out of the picture. Sadly, many biological parents refuse to allow their child to be adopted by the stepparent, even though they know the stepparent is playing an active role.

Perhaps permission is not given due to jealousy or anger, so refusing to allow the adoption could be a means of payback. It is really hard to say.

Or maybe the biological parent truly loves their child, and cannot admit that they are not fulfilling their parental role as they should, and it kills them to allow someone else to do what they should be doing.

The scenarios are endless. Yet once the child is an adult, the need for permission is no longer an obstacle.

A birth mother may naturally have a difficult time letting go of her baby, even when she knows it’s the right decision for her and her baby. But can a birth mother change her mind?

How to Adopt an Adult

Some state laws can prohibit the adoption of an adult. Providing there is not anything unusual going on, then the adoption should go smoothly. What then, could be a reason a state would not allow the adoption of an adult? Let’s take a look:

  • Depending on the state, there needs to be a particular age difference between the adoptive parent and the adopted adult child.
  • If the adoptive parent and adopted adult child are having physical relations, a state’s laws would apply to prevent adoption.
  • In some states, LGBT partners cannot use adoption as a means of legalizing their relationship.
  • Other state laws may apply.

The process for adopting an adult child is similar in each state. The following steps should help guide you in the process of adopting your adult child:

  1. Visit and request the adoption forms from your local courthouse.

    If you wish to download these same court forms online from the state in which you reside, use Google search and type in the key phrase “state of Montana judicial court forms”, for example.

    Replace the state of Montana with the state in which you are interested to find the adoption court forms.
  2. A lawyer is not needed to adopt an adult.
  3. You will generally be asked to fill out and then sign the required court forms in front of a notary.

    Notaries can be found everywhere and charge a minimal fee for their service. Most banks offer notary services for free.
  4. Submit the court forms per the instructions on the forms.
  5. You will be contacted by the courthouse with the date you will be required to appear in Family Court.
  6. You will appear before a judge on your assigned court date to explain to the judge your adoption wishes.

Learn the ins and outs of a contested adoption, what a contested adoption actually means, and what to be prepared for.

What Is the Oldest Age You Can Be Adopted At?

Some states set age limitations based on the adoptive parent’s and adoptee’s relative ages.

Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia, and Utah, for example, all require that the adult being adopted is younger than the adoptive parent, with Nevada and Utah requiring an age gap of at least 10 years and Virginia requiring a gap of at least 15 years.

Trina Greenfield - Adoption Author

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.