Adoption of an adult can be a fairly straightforward process. The adoptee’s biological parents do not need to be notified of the adoption and are not entitled to have a voice in the proceedings.
There are many reasons to proceed with a formal adoption, even after the “child” reaches adulthood. The most common situation is one in which a step-parent has wanted to adopt the child but has not been able to get the approval of the biological parent. At the time the step-child turns 18, the papers for step-parent adoption can be filed without notice to the biological parent.
Waiting until a child turns 18 for adoption works quite well in cases where the biological parent has a lifestyle that is unhealthy for the child. When a biological parent is unstable or violent, it is often unadvisable to contact the biological parent because it may encourage him/her to try to reenter the child’s life, bringing the chaos and danger along for the ride. Waiting a few extra years can turn a nail-biting situation into a positive and happy one, and decrease the risk of drama or danger.
Some adult adoptees may be well beyond their 18th birthday at the time of the adoption. Some of these situations involve step-families, others involve “just like family” groups who want to make their relationship a formal and legal one. These adoptions are done for emotional reasons, and the reward is well worth it.
Adoption creates the parent-child relationship under the law. As a practical matter, this affects the parties’ abilities to inherit to and from each other. It also affects next-of-kin issues in health care decision making. Of course, there are other ways to accomplish inheritance goals and grant powers of attorney through proper estate-planning but adult adoption will accomplish some of these goals plus satisfy the emotional needs for people to be legally connected forever.
A name change may or may not be part of an adult adoption, but if it is desired, it can be peaccomplished at the same time.
An adult adoption will not be granted by a judge if it appears that it is being sought to defraud creditors or avoid responsibilities under the law. It may not be granted if the judge believes that someone is being taken advantage of (the judge will look closely at cases in which one of the parties is or may be disabled, elderly, or under duress). An adult adoption will not grant benefits under U.S. immigration law.
In order to complete the adoption, a petition will need to be filed in family court and there will be a hearing.
If you considering adopting an adult or you are an adult who is thinking of consenting to being adopted, you should understand how your individual situation will be affected by the adoption. You should carefully consider how every aspect of your life will be affected, how the family will be affected, and be certain that you understand all of the legalities and steps involved in the process.