Ask the County Law Librarian – Adult Adoption
Q. My stepdaughter just turned 18. We wanted to do a stepparent adoption, but her father wouldn’t permit it. She doesn’t get along with her father (it’s a long story) and now that she’s 18, we heard that we can do an “adult adoption” without his permission. Can we do this? How would we do it?
A. Adult adoption is possible. In fact, it’s a pretty common question here at the law library—so much so that we created a step-by-step guide called “Adult Adoption in California” with instructions and sample forms.
An adult adoption is when someone adopts a person who is 18 or over and not related to them. It changes the legal rights of both of you, and severs the existing relationship with her biological father. A new birth certificate will be issued showing you as her father. Despite this, you’re right: you are not required to get permission or even notify her biological father once she is over 18.
Many people in California do adult adoptions for the same reason you want to do one – to make an existing parent-child relationship “legal” and cut ties with an absent or abusive parent. Other reasons are to ensure a loved one is included in inheritance or to include a disabled person in family benefits.
Same-sex couples sometimes use adult adoption to achieve legal family status. This is less common now that domestic partnerships are available. Occasionally people inquire whether they can adopt a non-citizen to help them come to (or stay in) the US, but adopting a person over 16 provides no immigration benefit.
The process involves filing a set of papers in court (adoption agreement, petition and order, and consent from your spouses), then appearing at a hearing for the judge to approve the adoption order. You can find more information in our step-by-step guide, and if you need more detail than that, you are welcome to visit the law library and do some research on your case.
Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.