November 21, 2020 is National Adoption Day, a day where we recognize and celebrate the children, youth, and families impacted by adoption, especially for children and youth who are adopted from the child welfare system. In honor of National Adoption Day, we want to revisit a less commonly known about mechanism for achieving permanence: adult adoption.

Adoption of an Adult

Many families assume that adoption is only for children. However, adult adoption is in our opinion, an underutilized mechanism for achieving permanence for many adoptee. Adult adoptions are an option that many families can and should consider when there is an informal parent/child relationship that has never been legally formalized. Adult adoptions are often used by a now adult child and their parent(s) or caretakers to make a pre-existing parent and child relationship permanent. Many of these examples are similar to adoptions for minors, such as an adult being adopted by their stepparent, relative, or foster parent.

An adult is defined as an individual who has achieved their eighteenth birthday. There are no age restrictions on adult adoption and an individual may adopt an adult older than they are. The only adults who cannot adopt each other are married couples.

No Requirement of Legal Clearance for Biological Parent(s)

An adult adoption is unique as it involves the adoptee consenting to their own adoption by the petitioner. To that end, there is no requirement of legal clearance for the biological parents. Often, legal clearance of the biological parents, either terminating their parental rights or requesting their consent to an adoption can be a significant barrier to finalizing a child’s adoption. It can be an emotionally difficult and expensive process. This barrier no longer exists in an adult adoption. There is a requirement that the biological parents be noticed that a petition for adoption has been filed, but this requirement may also be waived for cause.

Notice to Family Members

Adult adoption does require notice of the adoption to a number of parties involved in and affected by the adoption. These parties can include the biological parents of the adoptee, the children of the petitioner, and the spouse of the adoptee. Notice is extremely important in an adult adoption as inheritance rights are affected when an adoption is finalized.

The Legal Process

Petitions for Adoption are filed with the County Clerk of Court’s office in the county where the adoptive family or the adoptee lives. Filing a Petition for Adoption involves a filing fee of $120 to the Clerk of Court’s Office.

Attached to the petition are a number of legal documents that are highly case specific. All of the documents must be consistent and completed in a detailed and organized manner that meet the requirements of NC’s General Statutes. Stephenson & Fleming, LLP is equipped to work directly with the family members involved in the adoption to efficiently and consistently compile all of the relevant legal paperwork in order to meet all legal requirements.

Hearing for an Adult Adoption

A face to face hearing is required in an adult adoption as the Clerk of Court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that:

  • at least 30 days have elapsed since the filing of the petition (unless waived for cause);
  • notice of the petition has been served on any person entitled to notice;
  • each necessary consent, waiver, document, or judicial order has been obtained and filed with the court;
  • the adoption is entered into freely and without duress or undue influence for the purpose of creating the relation of parent and child between each petitioner and the adoptee, and each petitioner and the adoptee understand the consequences of the adoption;
  • and all legal requirements have been met.

If all requirements listed above have been met, a Decree of Adoption is issued. The date the Decree of Adoption is issued is the date when the adult adoptee is considered the full and legal child of the adoptive parent(s).

For more information about adult adoptions and how Stephenson & Fleming can support your family, contact Jamie Bazemore, Adoption Coordinator at [email protected].

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