Why And How You Can Legally Adopt Someone Who Is Aged 18 Years Or Older

When most people think about adoption, they most likely have images in their minds of family lawyers in court extolling the virtues of the parents who wish to adopt a young child. Unarguably, that is going to be the most common scenario, however, were you aware that adoption can also occur when the person being adopted is over 18 years of age?

You will note we said “person” and not “child” because legally anyone over the age of 18 is usually classed as an adult, however, that does not mean that they cannot be adopted. We have to mention first that the rules and laws relating to adopting adults vary from state to state so we highly recommend that you seek the advice of a family lawyer should adult adoption be something you are considering, whether you are the potential adopter or adoptee.

At the time of writing, some states in Australia do not have legislation that allows for adult adoption, or at best would only allow it if a special petition were raised with the Courts. Again we stress the importance of seeking advice from family lawyers to ascertain whether the adoption laws in the state where you reside are such that adult adoption is legally possible.

Circumstances That Allow For The Adoption Of An Adult

For any family court to grant the adoption of someone over 18 years of age, there will be specific criteria that must be met. The wording of the criteria in most of the legislation refers to the adoptee as the “child” which can be confusing to some. As such, and to be clear, when you see the term “child” it is referring to an adult who is to be adopted.

As for the criteria which the Court will be looking for, it can include some or all of the following circumstances and evidence depending on which state jurisdiction and adoption legislation apply:

  • Evidence that the adoptive parent and the child had a significant parent to child relationship before the child turned 18 years of age.
  • The child has been a ward of, and under the care of, the adoptive parent or parents.
  • The child has been brought up, maintained, and educated by the adoptive parent or parents.
  • There is clear evidence of financial and emotional support for the child and contribution to the child’s upbringing from the adoptive parents.
  • The adult being adopted is fully aware of the consequences of being adopted pertaining to their welfare, rights, and interests.

Given the criteria that the states which allow over 18s to be adopted specify, it is unlikely that a relative such as an aunt, uncle, or even grandparent would legally be allowed to adopt an adult, as they would not meet the criteria above. They may have played a significant role in the child’s upbringing, but unless that role extended to them supporting the child financially, educationally, and emotionally to the extent that a parent would, they would not qualify to adopt them.

Some jurisdictions even state categorically in their adoption legislation that relatives of a child cannot legally adopt them. The only variation to that made in some states is for step-parents to adopt their step-child who is over 18,  assuming that they brought that child up.

Application Processes For Adopting Adults

These will vary from state to state. In most cases, the procedure will include making an application to the relevant adoption authority with supporting documents which could include birth certificates, consent forms, documentary evidence as required by the state, and an affidavit. If the documentation is all in order, a court hearing will be held which will be attended by the adoptive parents and the adult being adopted.