What are the differences between adult adoptions and minor child adoptions?

While all states have generally similar laws governing the adoption of a minor child, most states’ laws with regard to the adoption of adults vary widely, in terms of the circumstances under which such an adoption can occur. Plus, there are some states in which adult adoptions are not permissible in any case. Therefore, before you proceed with any type of adoption, it is necessary to contact an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced with the adoption laws of your state.
The most common case involving the adoption of a minor child is when a person or couple is unable to have biological children, or otherwise chooses to adopt a child who is not biologically related in any way. In some cases, of course, relatives adopt minor children who are blood relatives; this often occurs, for instance, when a child is removed from a parent’s home for abuse and/or neglect, or a parent is unable to take care of a child for some reason, and a relative steps in to adopt the child. Stepparent adoptions often occur, as well. In this case, a biological parent (most often, a father) voluntarily or involuntarily relinquishes his or her legal parental rights in order to permit the child’s stepparent to adopt his or her stepchild. It is also relatively common for foster parents, or people who are taking care of children who have been removed from their parents’ homes for abuse or neglect, to opt to adopt their foster children when they become available for adoption, or when their biological parents’ legal rights have been terminated.
On the other hand, adult adoptions typically occur under very different circumstances. Traditionally, adult adoption laws were passed in order to address the cases of stepparents who wish to adopt their stepchildren later in life, and cases where the adult to be adopted is developmentally disabled in some manner. Often, stepparents are unable to adopt their stepchildren due to some legal impediment, such as the refusal of a biological parent to consent to the adoption during the child’s minority. Once the child turns 18, however, the biological parent’s consent is no longer required, and the stepparent adoption can proceed. Likewise, stepparents, or other caregivers, may wish to adopt a developmentally disabled adult in order to provide him or her with benefits such as medical insurance and inheritance rights. Furthermore, in recent years, same sex couples have taken advantage of adult adoption laws in order to reap the benefits of inheritance law, particularly in states where same sex marriages are not legal.
In some respects, however, adoptions involving adults and minor children are quite similar. Both types of adoptions have the effect of legally binding the adoptee to the adoptive parent(s), thus resulting in inheritance and other rights between the adoptee and the adoptive parent(s) identical to those between a biological parent and child. Both types of adoptions sever the legal relationship between the biological parent(s) and the adoptee, if it was not already legally terminated, such as through an abuse and neglect court proceeding. This means that the biological parent(s) whose rights were severed no longer has any legal relationship with the child, including rights of visitation, custody, inheritance, etc. Likewise, the adoptee no longer has the right to inherit from the biological parent(s) upon death. 

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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