Why Adults Adopt Each Other
by Dave Roos
Adult adoptions are more common than you think. In all 50 states, it’s legal for two or more consenting adults to form a new parent-child relationship through adoption. In two-thirds of states, you don’t even have to be older than the son or daughter you are adopting (Arizona has the most restrictive law, only allowing adult adoptions for adoptees who are between 18 and 21).
The U.S. doesn’t keep tabs on how many adult adoptions occur, but in 2013 the president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption told the Houston Press, that “dozens occur annually.” That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 135,000 children adopted in the U.S. each year, but the number seems to be rising.
Emotional Connections – A Reason for Adult Adoptions
Adults adopt other adults for many reasons, says Randall Hicks, an adoption attorney in Southern California, but the second most common after adult-stepparent adoptions are situations where people with no real relationship to their biological parents form a special bond with an individual or couple that’s nothing less than a parent-child relationship.
One of Hicks’ recent clients was a 57-year-old woman adopted by her 80-something neighbor who had become like a father to her over three decades of friendship. Parker Herring, a family law attorney in North Carolina, tells the story of a client, also in her eighties, who adopted her 60-year-old caregiver, calling her “the daughter I never had.”
In both of these cases, the motivation to perform an adult adoption was primarily an emotional one. These individuals wanted to make official something that they already knew in their hearts was true. But there were also legal and financial benefits to adopting, namely that adopted children automatically inherit a deceased parent’s estate with or without a will.
In the case of the elderly woman adopting her caregiver, “She wanted to make it very clear that in case anybody contested her will, this person was a legal child, and adoption gives you that assurance,” says Herring. “When you’re adopted, you step in as if you were born to that person.”
In North Carolina, the adoptee is required to notify his or her biological parents and siblings that a petition for adoption has been filed with the court. Same for any existing children of the adoptive parents. If any of those parties objected to the adoption, they could technically show up at the courthouse and make their case, but Herring has never seen it once in her 30-plus years of practice.
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