How can I initiate an adult adoption?

Adult adoption is a legal process the gives an adopted person a new name, a new birth certificate, and the right to be legally identified with her new family. Whether or not an adult can be adopted depends on the circumstances of the adoption and the reason for the adoption. While each state has different guidelines regarding the adult adoption process, there are some general trends and rules that apply to all adult adoption paperwork.

Initiating an Adult Adoption

The first thing most U.S. courts consider when approving an adult adoption is the reason behind the request. Courts look for reasons that are mutually beneficial and in the interest of the adult. Perhaps the most common reason for adult adoption is a desire to adopt step children in order to change their last name. Adoptions are also a common way to establish legal guardianship of incapacitated adults, as it's easier for a parent to make medical and care decisions than it is for an unrelated care provider. Another common reason for adult adoptions is inheritance rights. Under the law in every state, family members receive exclusive inheritance rights and avoid many inheritance taxes.

The courts must also ensure that the adoption meets the state’s legal requirements. For instance, most states require that the adopted and the adopting person have some previous parental relationship. For instance, if you are attempting to adopt an adult, the adult could have been a foster child you cared for, an orphaned grandchild, or even a ward that your family unofficially adopted. The one relationship that the courts refuse to grant is romantic. The adoption process is designed to formalize a parent-child relationship and is not a substitute for marriage.

Finally, courts must verify that all parties have submitted their consent forms. Most courts have separate forms that must be filed by the adopted person, the adopting person, and any spouses of these people. If any of these forms are missing when the court reviews the adoption, the adoption request may be automatically be dismissed.

Assistance with the Adult Adoption Process

Adult adoption is a simple legal procedure that does not require the assistance of an attorney in most cases. To start the adoption process, visit your local courthouse and pick up the adoption forms. The forms are usually available at the court’s filing window or the courthouse family law office. Don’t sign the forms immediately, as most forms must be signed in front of a notary. Notaries are available for signings at most postal stores.

After filling out the forms and having them properly notarized, take the completed forms to the courthouse and pay the adoption filing fee. The filing clerk will then date-stamp your submission. If the state requires a hearing for the adoption, the clerk will give you a specific date and time. If the court does not require a hearing, the clerk will file the paperwork with a family court judge and you’ll be notified by mail when the adult adoption is finalized.

For the most part, adult adoption is a straightforward process, but in some cases an attorney may be necessary. Consult with an attorney if you are adopting an incapacitated or mentally handicapped person, because additional legal paperwork and court requirements may be necessary before the adoption can be finalized. An adoption attorney will already know all the steps, have the paperwork on hand, and will be able take care of the filings for you, which can make the adoption process go more smoothly.