When most people think of adoption, they envision adopting a baby or young child, sometimes even from foreign countries. We typically do not consider the possibility of adopting an adult. It is, however, possible.
In Virginia, only certain individuals over the age of 18 can legally be adopted by another adult. Ordinarily, adult adoptions involve members of the immediate family. For example, a step-parent who has acted in loco parentis (in the place of the parent) for a minimum of three (3) months. Other “close relatives,” like a grandparent, great-grandparent, niece, nephew, brother, sister, aunt or uncle can also adopt an adult person.
In limited circumstances and with good cause shown, non-relatives can adopt an adult. However, the adult to be adopted must be at least fifteen (15) years younger than the person adopting them, and the parties must have known each other for at least one (1) year prior to the adoption.
To adopt an adult, you must file a petition in the circuit court for the county in which either you or the person to be adopted resides. The petition must include identifying information of the parties as well as your relationship to the individual to be adopted. Unlike most adoptions for minor children, there is no need to obtain the consent of the adult person’s parents to move forward with an adult adoption. Of course, the adult to be adopted must consent to the adoption. If you are not a relative of the person to be adopted, then the court will likely also require an investigation and report to be completed by child and family services.
Though they are not very common, adult adoptions are a great way to make permanent your family structure that has already taken form emotionally and physically. Adult adoptions can also be very useful for estate planning purposes. You probably don’t want to disinherit or partially disinherit your stepchild or person to be adopted, in the event you die without a valid last will and testament. This could very well occur under operation of Virginia law if you do not complete an adult adoption.