When you think about adoption, you probably picture an adorable little baby matched with a couple who are ecstatic over finally achieving their dream of building their family. That was always the picture in my mind when I thought about adoption. And that is often the case. But adoption is not just for babies.
As I began my practice as an adoption attorney, I quickly learned there are a lot more adoption scenarios than baby adoptions. There are stepparent adoptions, relative adoptions, foster-adoptions of older children, and adult adoptions. Adult Adoption is available when the “child” to be adopted is over 18.
When I received my first call about doing an adult adoption, I thought, how interesting. And I was intrigued. Why would one adopt an adult? So, I did my research and set up the consultation. When I met Michael* (age 76) and Tina* (age 32), he referred to Tina as his daughter, and she called him dad. They told me how Michael dated Tina’s mother for ten years when Tina was a young child, and during that time they formed a loving, father-daughter relationship. Though Tina’s mother and Michael’s adult relationship ended, theirs did not. Michael continued to be a father figure to Tina. He was the one who attended her high school and college graduations. He bought her first car. He paid for college. Now she was engaged, and Tina always wanted Michael to walk her down the aisle. They both wanted Michael to be the father of the bride.
So, first I explained the legal requirements. (1) Both parties must be over the age of 18. Check. (2) The adoptee must be younger than the adopter. Check. (3) The adoptee must not be the spouse of the Adopter (seriously). Check. (4) The spouse of the adopter must consent to the adoption. Check.
Next, I explained the legal consequences. An adoption is final and may only be set aside if there was fraud. It will create a legal parent-child relationship, and the law will treat Tina as if she were the natural child of Michael. Both will assume the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent-child relationship, including inheritance rights. There may be tax consequences so they should consult with their tax specialist.
Finally, I explain the legal process. I prepare a written Adult Adoption Agreement which they enter like a contract. Then we file an Adult Adoption Petition with the court. There is no home study needed because Tina is an adult. So, the process is quicker and cheaper than other adoptions (a home study costs between $700-$4,500 and usually takes 6-12 months to complete). There is no need to obtain parental consent from Tina’s birth mother or birth father. After we file the Petition, we obtain a date for the adoption finalization hearing. If the court is satisfied the adoption will be in the best interests of the parties and the public and there is no reason why the adoption should not be granted the court shall approve the Adoption Agreement and make an Order of Adoption declaring the person adopted is the child of the adoptive parent.
Tina’s mother remains her mother. She can keep her name as it is or change it so she shares Michael’s surname. She will get a new birth certificate listing Michael as her father.
They hired me, and three months later, I completed my first adult adoption.
Both Parties Get It
I held back my tears in court, as I watched the tears flow freely down the faces of the father and daughter pair. And I realized in that moment, that this was my favorite kind of adoption. Why? I know, those babies are so cute (believe me, I must struggle to suppress the urge to adopt every baby myself). But in a baby adoption, or adoptions of young children, only one side truly “gets it” — the adults. They know how special it is. They understand how incredible it is that this family has finally come together and is being legally recognized as the family that they are. They understand and appreciate the significance of the occasion. To the babies and the children, it is just another party. They are blissfully unaware of how lucky and blessed they and their parents are to have found each other.
But in an adult adoption, both parties get it. They both want this. They both are celebrating the relationship and the love they have lived for years already. As adults, both are choosing to formalize, legally recognize, and publicly proclaim, this parent-child relationship. It doesn’t matter if the “child” is no longer a child; she is his child.
It reminds me of a marriage, where two adults choose to commit to each other and become a family. But it is even better than marriage (I cry at those too). Because one, it is purer – it is a parent-child love. And two, it really is forever. There is no divorce in adoption: you are bound together as family forever.
Adoptions Formed From Love Ties
So, if you, or someone you know, has lived and loved in a parent-child relationship that is based on love ties, not blood ties, it is not too late to formalize, legalize, and proclaim to each other and the world, you are family! Adoption is not just for babies.
* CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This communication with its contents may contain confidential and/or legally privileged information. It is solely for the use of the intended recipient(s). Unauthorized interception, review, use or disclosure is prohibited and may violate applicable laws including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender and destroy all copies of the communication.
Michael and Tina are fictitious names to protect the privacy of the clients. This information is provided for educational purposes and to provide the reader with a general understanding of the basic rights afforded to parents/children under IDEA, not to provide specific legal advice. No attorney client relationship between the reader and Moore Law For Children is created. This information should not be used as a substitute for legal advice as it relates to the specific facts of your or your child’s circumstances or case.