Traditionally, adoption is thought of as an adult becoming the legal parent of a child under 18, or perhaps even under the age of 19 or 21 under some circumstances. Through the adoption process, the adoptive parent is granted all the rights to their adopted child, but is also accepting all the responsibilities associated with parenthood. These include the rights to make decisions on their child’s behalf, and the responsibilities to provide for that child. However, there is a concept in California called adult adoption, which occurs when an adult adopts another adult, becoming their legal parent. While the rights and responsibilities aren’t the same as they would be for the adoption of a minor child, there are certain reasons why someone may want to adopt – or be adopted by – an adult.
What is Adult Adoption?
For an adult adoption, both the adoptive parent and the adoptive adult child must formally consent to the adoption. In California, the adoptive parent must be at least ten years older than the adoptee. From there, the adoptive parent will file a petition, an adoption agreement, and an order of adoption with the court. Then, the court may approve the adoption and formally recognize the parent-child relationship.
An adult adoption does not require a home study or investigation as a minor adoption would. If either the adoptive parent or the adoptive adult child is married, their spouse will also need to consent to the adoption.
Just like children, adults can only have two legal parents listed on their birth certificate. Through the adult adoption process, the adult child will be issued a new birth certificate which will sever an existing legal relationship between one or more of their previously listed parents in favor of the newly-memorialized parent-child relationship. However, unlike adoptions involving a minor child, the displaced parent does not need to be notified nor do they have to give consent to severing the parent-child relationship.
But Why Adopt an Adult?
One of the main reasons for adult adoption is for inheritance purposes. When an adult child is adopted by an adult parent, they become the legal child of the adult, and will inherit in their adoptive parent’s estate like any other child born biologically to the parent or adopted prior to adulthood. This simplifies the estate administration process by creating a legally-recognized parent-child relationship between the parties.
Another common reason for adult adoption is to formalize familial bonds and relationships. If a stepparent has played a large role in the adult child’s life, the stepparent and adult child may want to memorialize their bond by legally obtaining a parent-child relationship. Similarly, when families reconnect when the child is of or over the age of majority, many parents and adult children want to formally memorialize their newfound parent-child relationship.
Adult adoption is also common when the adult child being adopted has a disability or additional needs when compared to the needs of an average adult. The adoption process allows the adoptive parent of a special needs adult to make decisions on the adult’s behalf and provide for them in the event of the adoptive parent’s death.
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