Adult Adoption in Florida
One of the most common forms of adoption in Florida is adult adoption. People look to adult adoption to establish inheritance rights, formalize an existing parental relationship (such as stepparent/stepchild or foster parent/foster child), or provide long-term care for a disabled adult.
What Is Adult Adoption?
An adult adoption is a legal process that allows a person over the age of 18 to be adopted by another adult. The adoption proceeding establishes a parent-child relationship between the adult adoptee and the person adopting. The process begins by filing a petition for adoption and finishes with the entry of Final Judgment of Adult Adoption.
The adult adoption terminates the parental status of the biological parents and makes the person the legal parent of the adult adoptee.
The person adopting the adult is called the Petitioner, while the adult being adopted is called the adult adoptee. To adopt an adult in Florida, the petitioner must:
- File a petition for adult adoption, along with all required attachments.
- Serve notice of the adoption on the existing parents.
- Attend the required hearing, either virtually or in-person.
- Obtain an amended birth certificate that lists the new parents.
Who Can Be Adopted as an Adult in Florida?
In Florida, any person who is over 18 years old can be adopted by another adult. The adult adoptee must consent to the adoption.
Unlike some other states, Florida does not have any upper age limit or any other requirements for the person filing for the adoption. The person adopting the other adult can either be single or married. If they are married, their spouse must consent to the adoption.
Why Pursue an Adult Adoption
Most often, an adult adoption legalizes a parent-child relationship that already exists. For example, an adult adoptee may have grown up with the Petitioner acting as if they were the adoptee’s parent, even if they were not legally. Often this is a stepparent that did not complete a stepparent adoption while the adoptee was a minor.
An adult adoption, therefore, is a way to legally formalize a parent-child for the remainder of their lives.
Requirements for Adult Adoption
In Florida, the requirements for adult adoption are established by Chapter 63 of Florida law. Under the law, an adult adoption requires:
- The adult adoptee’s spouse, if married, must sign a consent to the adoption.
- Written notice of the final hearing must be served onto the existing parents.
- The adult adoption case must be filed in the county where the adopting parent lives or in the county where the attorney handling the adoption is located.
- The petition for adult adoption must include a statement for why the petitioner wishes to adopt the adult.
- The adult adoptee must sign a consent to the adoption.
Neither the petitioner nor the adult adoptee must reside in Florida for any set length of time. Florida law previously required the adoptee to have lived in Florida for six months, but that requirement was repealed.
The existing parents do not need to consent to the adoption. However, they are legally entitled to be notified about the adoption hearing.
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Steps to the Adult Adoption Process
There are five steps to an adult adoption in Florida:
- File the petition for adult adoption.
- Schedule the hearing with the judge.
- Serve notice of the hearing.
- Attend the final hearing.
- Amend the birth certificate
1. File the Petition
A petition to adopt an adult begins the legal process. The petition is filed in the court where the petitioner resides, or in the court where the adoption attorney is located. The petition must include all attachments required by Florida law.
The county will charge a filing fee to open the adoption court file.
2. Schedule the Hearing
Once the petition for adult adoption is filed, the county clerk will assign the file to one of the judges handling domestic relations cases. The judge assignment is random.
Each judge maintains their own scheduling procedures and calendar. You and your attorney will pick one of the available hearings dates for the final hearing of adoption.
After the hearing time is secured, your attorney should file and give you a copy of a Notice of Hearing.
3. Serve Notice of the Adult Adoption
Florida law requires that notice of the adoption hearing be served onto the adult adoptee’s existing parents. You do not need to obtain the consent of the existing parents to complete the adult adoption.
Service of the notice of hearing must be done formally. A process server, or sheriff’s deputy, must hand the notice in person to the existing parents. Alternatively, the server can give the notice to someone that resides with the existing parents.
If you do not know the location of the existing parents, then constructive service is allowed. This means that the notice of hearing will be published in a court-approved newspaper.
4. Conduct the Final Haering
Most judges conduct the final adoption hearing virtually by Zoom or Microsoft Teams. That means both the adopting petitioner and the adult adoptee can attend the hearing from your home.
Most hearings take 5-10 minutes. Much of the legal work has already been done in preparation for the hearing day. Your attorney will ask the adopting petitioners and the adult adoptee a series of simple questions during the hearing. Primarily, the judge wants to make sure that everyone understands the legal ramifications to the adoption and wants to go forward with it.
After the hearing, the judge will enter the Final Judgment of Adult Adoption, which formalizes the parent-child relationship.
5. Amend the Birth Certificate
Once the legal process is complete, your attorney can help you apply for an amended birth certificate. The amended birth certificate will list the Petitioner as the parent.
If the adult adoptee had their name changed through the adoption, then the amended birth certificate will reflect the change of name.
Example of an Adult Adoption
Samantha and Jack have been married for 15 years. Samantha has a 20-year-old son named Alex from a previous relationship. Jack has been involved in Alex’s life since Jack was a young child and considers him to be his own son. He has formed a close bond with Alex over the years and considers him to be a part of his family.
Despite Jack’s parental role in Alex’s life, he has no legal rights as a parent since he is not biologically related to him. This has caused some practical problems, such as difficulties in obtaining medical information or the prospect of making decisions for Alex in case of an emergency.
To address these issues, Jack decides to pursue an adult adoption of Alex. This process would involve Jack formally adopting Alex as his son, despite Alex being an adult. The adoption would provide Jack with legal parental status. And it would give Alex the legal recognition of the parent-child relationship between him and Jack.
Benefits of Adult Adoption
In Florida, an adult adoption formalizes the parental-child relationship between two adults. The benefits to adult adoption include:
- The ability for the adult adoptee to inherit from the parent.
- The ability to take on the adopting parent’s last name.
- Being able to identify as family in hospital or other emergency situations.
- In some situations, formally terminating the parental status of a toxic parent-child relationship.
- Becoming legally part of the family.
Adult Adoption FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about adult adoption in Florida.
How much does it cost to adopt someone over 18?
An adult adoption costs around $3,000, which includes a legal fee, the court costs, the filing fee, and the birth certificate amendment fee. Doing the adoption yourself would save you the legal fee, but you would need to strictly comply with Florida adoption law.
Can you adopt someone over 18?
Yes, in Florida you can adopt another adult. Both the adopting adult and the adult adoptee must consent to the adoption. The adult adoptee’s existing parents do not need to consent.
Is there an age limit to adopt in Florida?
There is no age limit to adopt in Florida. Any single person, or jointly married couple, can adopt another person in Florida. They do not have to be a certain age.
What is the point of adults adopting adults?
The most common situation where one adult adopts another adult is the case where a stepparent wishes to adopt their adult stepchild. In these cases, the adopting stepparent is already a parental figure to the adult adoptee, and the adult adoption legalizes the existing relationship.
About the Author
Gideon Alper specializes in stepparent and relative adoptions for families throughout Florida.