Adoption doesn’t involve children only. Adoption is a process that establishes a legal relationship where none previously existed. Under the right circumstances, you can create that relationship between two adults as you would between an adult and a minor. While the concept may seem peculiar, adopting an adult might be a cause you pursue. Discover some of the potential benefits of adult adoption and the adoption process.

What is Adult Adoption?

How do you go about adopting an unrelated person age 18 and older? In California, the person who wishes to adopt an individual must be at least 10 years older than the person seeking to be adopted. Once the two parties formalize the adoption, the person who has become adopted also becomes entitled to all the rights and privileges inherent with a parent-child relationship.

Why Adopt an Adult?

An adopted adult is legally treated no differently than a natural-born child. That status provides the adopted adult with inheritance rights, the most common reason for adult adoption. Adopting an adult can help one person pass assets and property to another person more easily.

Since the adopted adult becomes the heir of the adopting parent upon that parent’s death, the adopted adult will have legal claim to the adopting parent’s estate. Often, people who adopt adults don’t have biological children who can inherit property. For this reason, these adults may set up a parent-child relationship with an unrelated adult to confer these rights.

The transfer of property is but one of several reasons you might consider adopting an adult. Adult adoption also may occur when two parties wish to formalize a parent-child relationship without official status. The most common example of this nature is a stepparent adopting an adult stepchild. You might also see adult adoption between foster parents and foster children or between guardians and children raised by the guardians.

Ensuring perpetual care for another is an equally compelling reason behind adult adoption. Typically, the adopted adult in these cases either possesses some disability or presents some diminished capacity. Under these circumstances, adoption can guarantee the adult a lifetime of ongoing care under a family insurance policy, as a legal child, or through inheritance rights.

California Requirements for Adult Adoption

Social services investigations are commonplace for traditional adoptions. These investigations ensure that the adopting parents’ home is suitable for the child and that child’s best interests. The investigation and the accompanying report to the court can take months to complete. By contrast, adult adoption tends to move quicker, as no mandatory pre-adoption investigation occurs. Ordinarily, an adult adoption takes only a month or two to complete.

As long as 10 years of difference exist between the ages of the adopting parent and the adopted adult, the adoption can usually move forward. A second condition is that an individual can’t adopt more than one unrelated adult each year, unless the adopted adult is disabled or is a biological sibling of an adult who has already been adopted. The same rule applies to the spouse of the adopting parent if the adopting parent is married.

In case you missed any of the adoption rules we covered, the following summarizes California’s adult-adoption requirements:

  • Both parties don’t need consent of the adopted adult’s biological parents to move forward with adoption.
  • The adopting parent and adopted child must be at least 10 years apart in age and not directly related, but the person adopted can be the stepchild, cousin, niece, nephew, or grandchild of the person requesting the adoption.
  • Social services typically doesn’t need to do a pre-adoption investigation or home visit.
  • If either party to the adoption is married, spousal consent is required unless the spouses are legally separated or the spouse is incapable of giving consent.
  • The adopted adult can keep any surname or change that name to the surname of the adopting parent.

California Adult Adoption Process

If you seek to adopt an adult in California, you need to complete and file the following three documents: a petition, an adoption agreement, and an order of adoption. Both the adoptive parent and the adoptee — called the “petitioners” on court documents — must file a petition for an adult adoption. The petition is the document asking the court to issue an order approving the adoption. In Los Angeles, that petition must include the following pieces of information:

  • Name, age, date, and birthplace of both parties
  • Length of time both parties have known each other
  • The reason the parties want the adoption
  • The date the petitioners signed their adoption agreement, with a copy of the agreement attached to the petition
  • In the case either one of the parties is married, the name of the spouse, date of the marriage, and children’s names and ages, if any; if the spouses have already consented to the adoption, names, the dates they consented, and a copy of the consent agreement
  • A statement testifying whether the adoption is in the public interest

Remember that an adoption fundamentally changes the legal rights of both petitioners. Adult adoptions can be complicated, and your petition will need to include certain language. A family law attorney who has experience with adult adoption can provide legal counsel before you move forward with an adoption.

Adoption Agreement

Among all the documents that solidify the adoption, the adoption agreement is the one that the adopting parent and adoptee both need to sign and date. The agreement specifies that both parties are willing to create a legal parent-child relationship and accept all the duties and responsibilities that come with that decision. Both parties also need to agree to file an adult adoption petition in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County. The petition, as described above, requests the judge to approve the agreement and issue an order finalizing the adoption.

Order of Adoption

Before the court finalizes the adoption, the adopting parent and adoptee will both need to attend a hearing. If the court approves your adoption agreement, the judge will sign an Order of Adoption. The order will include all the information you included in your petition and adoption agreement. The petitioners have to prepare the order, which must include certain language. The legal document itself is another part of an adult adoption where you might benefit from contacting an adoption attorney.

Adoption Hearing

You’re ready to file your adult adoption papers; now what happens? The clerk of court will first set a hearing date. Usually, no fee gets associated with adult adoptions other than what your attorney charges you. Typically, judges conduct adoption hearings in their chambers, not in open court. You’ll want to bring the adoption order with you and any consent papers you haven’t already filed. The adoptive parent and adoptee must be present in order for the judge to approve the adoption.

Once your hearing is over and the judge approves the adoption, you’ll file your adoption order with the clerk. If you want certified copies of the order, the clerk can give those copies to you. Remember, you must file an amended birth certificate form, VS44, before your hearing. After the hearing, the clerk will send the form to the State Registrar at the Department of Health Services, who will issue a new birth certificate in about eight months. 

Although adult adoption is less common than the adoptions of minors, you may find yourself in circumstances warranting an adult adoption. Whether you’re adopting an adult for formality, ongoing care, or inheritance purposes, an attorney can help you navigate the adoption process for you and the adult you wish to adopt.