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Who May Be Adopted?

Families in the United States come in all sizes and from unique situations. Expanding a family through adoption is exciting, but it can also be complicated. Although people have many options for locating children available for adoption, prospective parents should be aware of applicable state restrictions. This article provides a brief overview of who may be adopted in the U.S. and its territories.

General Requirements for Adoption

Judges in adoption courts consider the best interests of a child when making adoption decisions. In addition to showing that adoption would be optimal for a child's upbringing, potential parents must also meet general requirements that are set by adoption laws. Some of those conditions include the following:

  • Connecticut, Montana, and American Samoa specify that the child must be legally free for adoption, which means that they must not be subject to another person's parental rights.
  • Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the U.S. Virgin Islands require the child to be present in the state at the time the adoption petition is filed.
  • Iowa requires the child to have lived in the home of the prospective adoptive parents for a minimum of 180 days.

State Age Requirements

All states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories permit the adoption of a child. Some states have additional requirements, examples of which are the following:

  • Approximately twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia allow the adoption of any person, regardless of age.
  • American Samoa allows parties to petition the court for the adoption of persons over 18 years of age. However, the person to be adopted must also be under 21 years of age.
  • In Massachusetts and Nevada, the adult to be adopted must be younger than the adoptive parent.
  • West Virginia and Wisconsin require the adoptive parent of an adult be a resident of the state.

Adoption of Adults: State Requirements

As seen from the section above, there are instances when an adult may be adopted. The following are examples of when adults are eligible for adoption:

  • Alabama restricts adoption of adults to persons who are permanently and totally physically disabled, as well as persons that are intellectually disabled. When an adult consents in writing to be adopted by someone to whom they are related, such adoptions are permitted, as well. Also allowed are adoptions by written consent, when the adopting parties are a married couple.
  • Ohio permits adoption of an adult when either the person: (1) is totally or permanently disabled (physically or intellectually), or (2) is a stepchild or foster child with whom a parent-child relationship was established while the child was a minor. Also allowed are adoptions of adults who, at the time of reaching the age of 18, are under the care of a public child services agency or a private child placing agency. Under such circumstances, they must be in a permanent custody or planned permanent living arrangement with either of those types of facilities. The adult must consent to the adoption, as well.
  • Idaho and Illinois require that the adopting parent be in a sustained parental relationship for a specified period of time with the adult to be adopted. The time period ranges from six months to two years, depending on the state.
  • Virginia permits the adoption of an adult stepchild, niece, or nephew when the adopted person:
    1. Lived in the prospective parent's home for at least three months prior to reaching adulthood, and
    2. The person that is going to be adopted is at least fifteen years younger than the party seeking the adoption, and both parties have known one another for at least one year prior to the filing of the petition for adoption.

Have Additional Questions About Who May Be Adopted? Ask a Lawyer

If you're interested in becoming an adoptive parent, you may want to consider contacting an experienced adoption attorney who can answer questions specific to your circumstances and explain the adoption process in your state.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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