Adopting an Adult

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adult adoption n. The adoption of a person over the age of majority (as defined in State law).

Adult adoption was quite a common occurrence during the ancient/classical periods to carry on a dynasty, occupation, or family name; to care for a parent in old age; or to protect property rights.

Today, however, there are three main reasons people pursue the adoption of an adult person.

  • Inheritance. This is the most common reason for adult adoption, creating a parent-child relationship that will be legally recognized so that the adopted person can inherit from the adoptive parent(s).
  • Formalizing a parent-child relationship. When a previous stepparent-stepchild, foster parent-foster child, or informal parent-child relationship existed, the adult parties may want to formalize the relationship through adoption.
  • Perpetual Care. If the person to be adopted is of diminished capacity or abilities, adoption may provide a means of assuring him/her of lifetime care under family insurance, as a legal family member, or through inheritance.

Changes Effected by Adoption

In the same manner as child adoption, the adoption of an adult will result in changes.

  • Severing parental relationships. An adoption creates a new parent-child relationship and severs the existing relationship with biological parents (or with the non-custodial biological parent only, in the case of stepparent adult adoption).
  • New birth certificate. An amended birth certificate will be issued for the adopted person, showing the adoptive parent(s) as birth parents.
  • Name change. The surname (last name) of the adopted person may be changed to that of the adoptive parent(s).
  • Sealed records. Adoption records for adult adoptions appear to be treated the same as those for child adoptions in that the records pertaining to the adoption will be sealed according to state law, even though the parties to the adoption are adults and are aware of family details. If this is a matter of concern, parties to the adoption should keep copies of all documents relating to the adoption itself and life events prior to the adoption for safekeeping.

Note: If the only purpose for considering an adult adoption is to change the name of the person to be adopted, name changes are relatively simple procedures and can be done without severing parental rights of existing parents.

Governed by State Law

Adult adoption is handled differently in all states. Some state statutes only provide for adult adoption if the person to be adopted is of diminished capacity. Some states require the consent of the spouse of the person to be adopted (if married), some require notification of biological parent(s), and some require nothing more than the consent of the adult parties. Check state laws on adult adoption here.

More: Adult Adoption, from the Encyclopedia of Adoption


Information in this article refers to domestic U.S. adult adoption. For information on the adoption of an adult non-U.S. citizen, contact an immigration specialist. Information in this article does not constitute, and is not a substitute for, legal advice.
Visitor Comments (6)
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Need some advice! - 3 months ago
My mother passed away when I was 6 years old. So I never had a mother figure in my life. A year ago my father got remarried and they got a newborn child together. Me and my stephmom are really close and we have a great relationship. I want to surprise her with adoption papers that she is officially my family now. However, I am 18 years old and have no idea if it is even possible that she can adopt me (as an adult) and I want it to be a surprise so, I don't want to get her involved in the adoption process. Does anyone have some tips or advicep how to start this process? Thank you so much! #1
Steve - 3 years ago
0 0 2
Thank you for the information. I found the information I needed in words I could understand, not in legaleeze. Thanks again. #2
Naledi - 3 months ago
I'm looking for a family that can take me in and be there child.I'm 20 this year ..I really need help,My mother is a single,unemployed and she is struggling to support me and my small sister ,who is 10 this year.If you willing to help me,this is my phone number:073 xxxxx. #3
wish I had parents... - 3 years ago
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My father died when I was 20, but I hardly knew him. I only saw him a handful of times in my whole life. My parents were never married, my mother just made poor choices. It wasn't her fault, she was in a car crash when she was 17 which gave her brain damage. She never really liked me. After about age 5 I suppose the novelty wore off and she didn't have time for me anymore. She was too busy with friends/drinking/drugs, who knows where else. I had my first child at age 14 and moved out by 15. Today my husband and I have 7 kids. My mother barely knows them. A few months ago I convinced her to go on a picnic with us. My confused 5 year old kept saying to me "you have a mom?"....I wish I had parents who actually cared so my kids could have grandparents. :( #4
Thank you for reading, pray for me xxx - 3 years ago
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I was my mothers first child conceived at 16 by mistake, she suffered post natal depression and my father was a repeat wife beater. They were forced into marriage before my birth and were divorced by the time I was 2. I know when my mother looked at me as a child she saw my father and had no real time love or compassion for me. My step father and mother had children who became the favorite children. I have heard people talk of the white privilege, but being white never helped me growing up I felt like Cinderella. I escaped at 16 and it was only when I was 22 and had my first child with my collage sweetheart that I knew how much abuse both emotional neglect and practical slavery I had been put through. As away of escape I would wake up at 5.30 am and do all my chores before 7.30 so I could get a half an hour to watch Tv, before being sent to my room. My husband unfortunately passed serving our country and raising two children alone is so hard, I pray everyday I could have a big family #5
carrie - 3 years ago
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When I turned 18 I legally changed my name to my step fathers name who has raised me since I was a baby. Due to my biological father not being present at my birth my mother gave me her last name and did not include the name of my biological father whom I have never known....I have since legally changed my name and would like to list my dads (stepfathers) name on the birth certificate. I was born in New Mexico and need to know how to go about updating my birth certificate. Can you tell me what I need to do to complete this. Thank you. #6

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