Adult adoption in Florida

Adult Adoption in Florida

In Florida, adult adoption is a legal process that allows one adult to adopt another adult. Adult adoption in Florida is governed by Chapter 63 of the Florida Statutes. The person adopting the adult is called the petitioner, while the adopted adult is called the adoptee. In Florida, any person over 18 can adopt another adult so long as the adoptee consents to the adoption.

Here are some key points related to adult adoption in Florida:

  1. Age Requirement: The person being adopted must be 18 years or older.
  2. Consent: The adult being adopted must give their consent to the adoption.
  3. Termination of Parental Rights: An adult adoption also terminates the parental status of the biological parents (unless married to the petitioner).
  4. Reasons for Adult Adoption: There can be various reasons for adult adoption in Florida, such as formalizing an existing parent-child relationship, ensuring inheritance rights, or solidifying a family bond.
  5. Process: The process is generally more straightforward than adopting a minor. After filing the petition and receiving consent from the adult being adopted, a court hearing will be scheduled. If the judge finds that the adoption is in the best interest of all involved parties, they will issue an order of adoption.
  6. Legal Effect: Once the adoption is finalized, the adoptee becomes the legal child of the adoptive parent(s), with all the rights and responsibilities that come with that relationship. This includes inheritance rights.
  7. Name Change: The adult being adopted can change their last name as part of the adoption process, if they choose to do so.
  8. Termination of Parental Rights: An adult adoption also terminates the parental status of the biological parents (unless married to the petitioner).

The purpose of adult adoption is to establish 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 a Final Judgment of Adult Adoption.

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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.

How to Adoption an Adult in Florida

To complete an adult adoption in Florida, a person must (1) file the petition for adoption, (2) schedule the hearing with the judge, (3) serve notice of hearing onto the biological parents, (4) attend the final hearing, and (5) amend the birth certificate. An adoption attorney can assist with each step. As a result of the adult adoption, the petitioner will become the new legal parent of the adult adoptee. The parental status of the biological parents will be terminated unless they are married to the petitioner, such as with a stepparent adoption.

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.

How to adopt an adult in Florida

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.

Adults adopting adults, a guide to adopting someone who is over 18

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.

Disadvantages of Adult Adoption

Despite its potential benefits, adult adoption also carries some disadvantages:

  1. Legal Complexity: Adoption, whether child or adult, involves legal procedures which can be complicated and time-consuming.
  2. Financial Implications: In some cases, the adoptee may become legally entitled to claim part of the adopting parent’s estate, which could lead to complications or disputes, especially in blended families.
  3. Impact on Biological Family Rights: an adult adoption cuts off the adopted person’s legal ties to their biological family, affecting rights of inheritance and access to family medical history.
  4. Emotional Challenges: As with any significant change in familial relationships, adult adoption may bring unexpected emotional challenges. It may strain relationships with other family members who might feel left out or marginalized.
  5. Impact on Social Security and Other Benefits: Adoption can sometimes affect eligibility for certain benefits. For instance, in the United States, once an adult is adopted, they may not be able to receive Social Security survivor benefits from their biological parents.
  6. Insurance Issues: Depending on the specific circumstances and jurisdiction, adult adoption may impact eligibility for life insurance benefits or rates.

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, any adult who is 18 or old can be adopted by another adult as long as the adoptee agrees to the adoption. Both the adopting adult’s spouse 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.

Gideon Alper