Adult adoption can be a complicated process. Adoptions for adults require a certain number of requirements to be met before the full adoption may take place. In addition, there are some potential pitfalls a person may encounter during their process for successfully adopting an adult. You may be considering adopting an adult, or obtaining an adult adoption, and you may have certain questions about how the process will work altogether.

Can You Legally Adopt An Adult?

Many people assume that adoption is only for minors. This is not the case, however, an adult may enter into a parent-child relationship with another adult, provided that certain requirements have been met. California law establishes strict guidelines on how a person may go about this.

What Does Adult Adoption Mean?

Adult adoption is the process of legally establishing a parent-child relationship between two adults who have consented to the action. The law will solidify the already strong bond between these two adults once the process is complete.

The first thing to consider is that the "child" in these situations may be referred to as an "adoptee" throughout the process.

The law reads, "After adoption, the adoptee and the adoptive parent or parents shall sustain towards each other the legal relationship of parent and child and have all the rights and are subject to all the duties of that relationship."

This means that a legally binding parent and child relationship is established between these two adults. The adopted person may even take the family name of the adoptive parent if so desired.

The adoptive parent, following the completion of the adult adoption process, will be able to assume the roles and responsibilities of the parent and may legally be considered the "next of kin."

Who Must Be Involved In The Adult Adoption Process?

In order for an adult adoption to take place, there must be at least two adults: one to become the Adoptive Parent and one to become the Adoptee child.

Age Requirement

First, the Adoptee (child) must be at least 18 years of age.

The process does not need to involve a person's birth parents. In fact, the individual's birth parents do not need to be notified of this process. Although this seems simple, an adoptive parent or adoptee is likely to have other relationships in their life that may complicate the matter.

Consent From Spouses

If the adoptive parent is married, however, they must also have permission and consent from their spouse to undergo the adoption. This is the case unless the spouses are lawfully separated, or the spouse is incapable of giving consent to the adoption. The same applies for the adoptee. They may not be adopted without the consent of their spouse unless they are separated from their spouse or their spouse is not able to provide consent.

Ten Year Difference

One important factor, under California's public policy, that must be considered is the age difference between the adoptive parent and adoptee. In order to adopt an adult, a person seeking to become an adoptive parent must be at least ten years older than the adoptee. The ten years are measured from birthday to birthday. So in the simplest terms, there must be 10 years of age difference between the Adoptee child and Adoptive parent.

What Are Some Reasons For Adult Adoptions?

There are several common reasons for an adult adoption to take place. Some of these can include:

  • Stepparent And Stepchild: Sometimes, life circumstances can prevent a step-parent from adopting a stepchild during their minor years. Even without a formal adoption, these individuals can often see each other in a parent-child relationship, although it has not been formally established. The circumstances of their lives, however, can potentially present them the opportunity to legally solidify their bond through an adult adoption.
  • Establishing A Next-Of-Kin: When a person engages in an adult adoption, they assume the legal role of a parent to a child. This can even establish a next of kin bond between the two adults should anything happen to the parent or the adoptee child.
  • A Strong Bond Between Two Adults: Sometimes, two adults can develop a strong bond that feels as though they are in a parent-child relationship. This does not always have to come from step parents to stepchildren. If two adults share this bond, they can make this legally known through an adult adoption.
  • Foster-parent adoption of Foster-child who turns 18 years old: A Foster-parent who opened his/her home and raised a child to the age of adulthood (18 years old), may want to formalize the parent-child relationship and complete an Adult Adoption.

Is my Legal Relationship with my Birth Parent Terminated with a California Adult Adoption?

To answer that question you need to look at California Family Code sections 9306(a), 9306(b) and the new section California Family Code 9306(c), which took effect on January 1, 2020.

The default or starting point of the law is at California Family Code 9306(a) which in summary provides, when an adult adoption is completed, the birth parents of the newly adopted adult are relieved of any and all parental duties, responsibilities, and rights to and over the adopted adult. This means that the legal relationship will be terminated, erased or cut-off, but there are two important exceptions below:

California Family Code 9306(b) provides that if an adult is adopted by the spouse of a birth parent, there is no change in the rights, duties, and responsibilities of that birth parent.  This would apply to the standard stepparent relationship, whether they are currently or formerly married to the birth parent.  As an example, if Stepfather (stepdad) raised Stepson (or Stepdaughter) while married to Birth Mother, and Stepfather then adopts the Stepson or Stepdaughter (Adoptee) as an adult, the relationship between the Adoptee and Birth Mother is not changed. 

This is true even if the Stepfather and Birth Mother are no longer legally married - based on a reasonable interpretation of the Preliminary Provisions in California Family Code section 11, which states:  A reference to “husband” and “wife,” “spouses,” or “married persons,” or a comparable term, includes persons who are lawfully married to each other and persons who were previously lawfully married to each other, as is appropriate under the circumstances of the particular case.  

So what happens with non-traditional families where a the couple never legally married, but a partner raised the child as his/her own and now wants to adopt as an adult? This is a very common life situation in our modern society.  Finally, yes it took them until the year 2020, the California Legislature got around to providing a mechanism to protect the birth parents legal rights/responsibilities. 

The new California Family Code section 9306(c) now provides: An adult being adopted pursuant to this part may waive the termination of the parental duties and responsibilities of an existing parent or parents under subdivision (a) by signing a waiver at any time prior to the finalization of the adoption. The waiver may be included in the adoption agreement or in a separate writing filed with the court. This is now being called a 9306(c) Waiver of Termination of Parental Duties and Responsibilities.  There is no standardized Court form for this waiver that has been developed yet.

An important fact in the plain language of California Family Code section 9306(c) is that it only waives the termination of the parental duties and responsibilities of an existing parent or parents.  The plain language of California Family Code 9306(c) does NOT maintain the existing parent's rights to and over the adopted adult.

Can Anything Prevent My Adult Adoption?

Aside from a lack of consent from an adoptee or adoptive parent's spouse, there are a few other reasons why a person may not be able to follow through on an adult adoption. California imposes certain restrictions on a person's ability to adopt if one of the following circumstances applies:

  • Criminal Records: Certain criminal offenses, such as sex crimes, and/or being listed on a Sex Offender database may complicate the Adult Adoption process, but do not preclude it. This factor should be discussed with your Attorney.
  • Age Between The Adults: The adults seeking an adoption must be ten years apart in age. This is a mandate by law and will be examined by the Court to ensure the adoption can take place.
  • Failure To Obtain Spousal Consent: Spousal consent from both parties is a necessary aspect of an adult adoption when either party is currently married.

How Long Does The Adult Adoption Process Take?

Depending on how quickly a person conducts their filing, and the case volume of the court, adult adoptions may take somewhere between 60 to 90 days time before it is completed. The speed of the process can vary depending on how quickly a person is able to complete their paperwork, and how cooperative they are with their attorney.

What Are The Normal Requirements For An Adult Adoption?

Aside from the necessary consent obtained from the spouses of both parties, the adults engaging in the adoption must be at least ten years apart in age. In addition to this, a person wishing to file must have the necessary paperwork with very specific wording/language properly completed before it can be submitted to the court.

What If I Want To Adopt More Than One Adult?

While it is possible to undergo multiple adult adoptions, the law provides certain restrictions. The law regarding adoption of multiple adults states:

"A person may not adopt more than one...adult....within one year of the person's adoption of an unrelated adult"

The law does, however, make an exception for biological siblings, or for adoptees who are disabled or physically handicapped. It is also important to note, that the spouse of the adoptive parent may not also adopt a child within that same one-year time span unless the adoptee is a biological sibling.

What If I Want To Adopt An Adult With Special Needs?

A person's application to adopt an adult with special needs may be under heavier scrutiny than a standard adult adoption, as greater care will need to be taken in these situations. Fortunately, an adult who wishes to adopt multiple adults with disabilities is not precluded by law from adopting multiple disabled adults.

Will I Need To Make A Court Appearance?

Both parties will need to make an appearance in court before their adult adoption may be finalized. At these hearings, individuals will be asked to offer their reasoning behind their adoption and will be asked to present valid arguments to show that it is in the best interests of both parties to finalize the proposed adoption. Although court can be a somewhat unfamiliar and confusing place for many individuals, the services of an attorney can offer important guidance for an individual making their way through the adult adoption process.

California Adult Adoption Attorney

The adoption process can be difficult to push through, even with two adults at the helm. The law has many pitfalls and stops in the process that can prevent or hinder a person from making progress in their plans for adult adoption. If you or your loved one is seeking to finalize, begin, or speed along your adult adoption process, contact us today. Our attorney can represent you in your filings, and can also make court appearances for your case as necessary.