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Adoption laws - Information on the law about Adoption - Federal Law

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There is great variety among states regarding adoption laws, perhaps due to the very personal nature of these laws. A long legal tradition did not surround family law, and as state governments began to take responsibility for regulating family relationships, they tended to develop very unique and regional variations on aspects of family law, including adoption. These variations spawned difficult legal conflicts as modern families grew more mobile, and these conflicts gave rise to the desire to standardize laws among the states into Model Acts and Uniform Laws. Although the need for adoption standardization is strong to date, only eight states have adopted the Uniform Adoption Act.

Any adult may adopt any other person with only minor logical restrictions. A married person must apply for adoption jointly with his or her spouse, for example, and, if the child in certain states is over the age of ten, twelve, or fourteen, the state will require his or her consent as well (except in Louisiana and Wisconsin, where the child's consent is not required). "Objective" standards, like Hawaii's requirement of a "proper" adopter, or Illinois's "reputable" one, and Virginia's "natural" one, also are present, as are specific requirements, for example, that the adopter be at least ten years older than the adoptee. Sometimes the adoptee must be a minor. In Florida homosexuals are, from the face of the statute, specifically excluded from adopting; it is unclear whether terms such as "proper," "reputable," or "natural" refer to a prospective parent's sexual orientation.

In general, family laws are changing as society's value system changes and is scrutinized. In the area of adoption, there is a growing trend to recognize the rights and opinions of children at younger ages, and to recognize the rights of non-traditional individuals. Indeed, same-sex couples are recognized as adoptive parents in a number of states. Also, some states appear headed in the direction of "open" adoption, whereby any individual may adopt any other individual for any reason.

Federal law has preempted the entire scope of the laws of adoption regarding Native Americans, provoking controversy over a non-Native American family's ability to adopt a Native American. In 1991, when a member of the Aleut tribe had a baby out of wedlock, a non-Native couple living in Vancouver, British Columbia, adopted the child. The tribe sued for custody of the child and won the right to intervene in the adoption by claiming that they had a vital interest in preserving the child's Indian heritage. The California court upheld the tribe's right to intervene, but in the child's interest let her remain with her adoptive parents because she had been living with them for nearly two years.

Table 23: Adoption

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
FEDERAL
25 U.S.C. §§1901, et seq.; Indian Child Welfare Act
    Placement preferences   Indian Tribe exclusive jurisdiction/Tribal 2 years (unless otherwise permitted under state law)
ALABAMA
26-10A-1 to 26-10A-38; No
(1) Any minor (2) Any adult under following conditions: (a) He or she is permanently disabled (b) He or she is determined to be mentally retarded 14 years and older unless adoptee does not have mental capacity to give consent Any adult person or husband and wife jointly; no rule or regulation of Department of Human Resources shall prevent adoption by single person solely because of a certain age; or by a person because he or she works outside the home. 60 days, unless waived by court when good cause is shown Dept. of Human Resources/Probate Court 1 year
ALASKA
25.23.010 to 25.23.240; Yes
Any person 10 years and older unless court dispenses with minor's consent in minor's best interest Husband and wife together; unmarried adult, including father or mother of person to be adopted; married person without other spouse joining, if other spouse is not person to be adopted, and other person is parent of adoptee and consents to adoption or consent is excused by court or spouses are legally separated. Yes, but no specified length of time required Health & Social Services/Superior, Juvenile Division 1 year

Table 23: Adoption—Continued

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
ARIZONA
8-101 to 8-145; No
Any child under 18 years of age or foreign born person under age 21 who is not illegal alien; any adult person who is a stepchild, niece, cousin, nephew, or grandchild of the adopting person; an adult who was placed in the care of the adopting parent as a foster child as a juvenile. §8-132 12 years and older in open court Any adult resident of the state is eligible to adopt; husband and wife may jointly adopt children. Adults may adopt adult relatives. No Economic Security/Superior, Juvenile Division 1 year
ARKANSAS
9-9-201 through 9-9-508; Yes
Any person 10 years and older unless court dispenses with minor's consent in minor's best interest Husband and wife together, unmarried adult, unmarried parent of child, single married parent of child if other parent consents or they are legally separated 6 months Human Services/Probate Court 1 year
CALIFORNIA
Family §§8500-9340; No
Any unmarried minor child at least 10 years younger than prospective adoptive parent or parents; any married minor or adult 12 years and older Any adult; must be 10 years older than child unless stepparent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or first cousin and court approves No State Department of Social Services/Superior On any grounds except fraud: 1 year; fraud: 3 years

Table 23: Adoption—Continued

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
COLORADO
14-1-101; 19-5- 200.2 to 304; No
Any child under 18 years (age 18–21 upon court approval may be adopted as a child); any adult 12 years and older Minor with court approval or any person over 21. Married person must petition jointly with spouse unless such spouse is natural parent of or has previously adopted child or is legally separated No Social Services/Juvenile Jurisdictional or procedural defect: 90 days; in stepparent adoption, fraud upon court or party: 1 year
CONNECTICUT
45a-724 to 765; No
Any person (except between persons over age of majority, there must be written consent of spouses if any of adopted person) 12 years and older Married persons must join in adoption unless court finds sufficient reason for nonjoinder; sexual orientation of prospective parents may be considered No Children and Youth Services/Probate Court Not specified
DELAWARE
Tit. 13, §§901 to 965; No
Any person 14 years and older, unless court waives consent in best interest of child Unmarried person; divorced or legally separated person; husband and wife who are living together. Must be legal resident of Delaware and over 21. 6 months Dept. of Services for Children, Youth & Families/Family 6 months
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
16-301 to 315; No
Any person 14 years and older Any person, provided spouse (if any) joins in petition unless spouse is natural parent of adoptee and consents thereto. 6 months Mayor or licensed agency/Superior Court of the District of Columbia 1 year
FLORIDA
§§63.022-63.301; No
Any person 12 years and older unless court dispenses with consent in best interest of the child An unmarried adult who is not homosexual. Married person must be joined by spouse unless such spouse is parent and consents, or failure to join in consent is excused. 90 days Dept. of Health & Rehabilitative Services/Circuit 1 year

Table 23: Adoption—Continued

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
GEORGIA
19-8-1 to 26; No
Any child 10 years younger than petitioner; any adult who gives written consent. 14 years and older Any adult at least 25 years of age or married and living with spouse and bona fide resident for 6 mos. prior to filing petition; must be ten years older than adoptive child. No Dept. of Human Resources/Superior Court in county Not specified
HAWAII
578-1 to 17; No
Any person 10 years and older; if married adult, consent of spouse also Any proper adult person, not married, or married to legal parent of minor, or husband and wife jointly. No Human Services/Family 1 year
IDAHO
16-1501, et seq.; No
Any child; with consent of parents, if living; any adult where the person adopting has sustained relation of parent. 12 years and older Any adult resident of Idaho for at least 6 consecutive mos. prior to filing who is either 15 years older than child or 25 years of age or older; except spouse of natural parent or person adopting adult who has shown a substantial relationship as a parent has been maintained in excess of 1 yr. may adopt without above age restriction. No married person can adopt without consent of spouse. No Dept. of Health & Welfare/Magistrate's Division or District 6 mos. except for fraud
ILLINOIS
750 ILCS 50/1 to 50/24; No
Any child; any adult residing in home 2 years, or a relative. 14 years and older Any reputable person of legal age who has resided continually in Illinois for at least 6 months. Residency requirement waived in adoption of relative. If petitioner is married, husband or wife must join in petition. Minor may also petition by leave of court upon good cause shown. 6 months unless waived by court Department of Children and Family Services/Circuit Court 1 year after entry of order
INDIANA
31-19-1-1, et seq.; No
Any person 14 years and older Any resident of state. If married, spouse must join. Spouse must consent if such spouse is natural or adoptive parent. Nonresidents of state may adopt hard to place child as defined in §31-19-2-3. Period of supervision within sole discretion of court hearing adoption petition Public Welfare/Probate (in counties with one) 6 mos. after entry or decree or 1 yr. after adoptive parents obtain custody, whichever is later

Table 23: Adoption—Continued

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
IOWA
600.1, et seq.; No
Any person 14 years and older Unmarried adult; husband and wife together; husband or wife separately under certain circumstances. 180 days; may be shortened for good cause Human Services/Juvenile or district Not specified
KANSAS
59-2111, et seq.; No
Any person; adult with consent (if married, spouse's consent also) 14 years and older and of sound intellect Any adult, or husband and wife jointly, except one spouse cannot adopt without consent of other. Not required Social & Rehabilitation Services/District Not specified
KENTUCKY
199.470; No
Any person 12 years and older Any person over 18 who is a resident of or who has resided in Kentucky for 12 months immediately preceding filing. Husband and wife must petition jointly (except in certain circumstances). In some adoptions, 90 days prior to filing adoption petition; temporary custody pending decision in some cases. Cabinet for Families and Children/Circuit 1 yr.; unless ethnological ancestry difference: then 5 years
LOUISIANA
Ch. C. Art. 1167-1270; No
Any child or adult; Special procedures exist to adopt adult. Not required Any single person 18 years of age or older, or married couple jointly. 1 year/6 mos. Dept. of Social Services/Juvenile 30 days; 6 mos. for fraud or duress
MAINE
Tit. 18A §9-101, et seq.; No
Any person, minor or adult; only a minor can be placed under guardianship 14 years and older Husband and wife jointly, unmarried person, resident or non-resident. 1 year may be required at discretion of court Human Services/Probate Not specified
MARYLAND
Fam. Law §5-301, et seq.; No
Any person 10 years and older if the natural parents' rights have been terminated Any adult, even though single or unmarried. Court cannot deny petition just because petitioner is single. Married persons must act jointly unless legally separated or if one spouse is natural parent of adoptee or spouse is incompetent. Not required Social Services Administration/Circuit or Equity 1 year

Table 23: Adoption—Continued

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
MASSACHUSETTS
Ch. 210; No
Any person younger than adopter; special requirements are needed for child under age 14. 12 years and older Any person of full age, his spouse joining, may, subject to certain exceptions, petition to adopt any person younger than himself (other than petitioner's spouse, brother, sister, aunt, or uncle of whole or half blood). 6 months if adoptee is under 14 unless requirement waived Social Services/Probate 120 days for appeal; may only be made by a parent
MICHIGAN
MCLA §710.21, et seq.; No
Any person 14 years and older Any person; if married, spouse must join. 6 months, unless waived by court Family Independence Agency/Family Division of Circuit 21 days from entry of order or denial of petition for rehearing
MINNESOTA
259.20, et seq.; No
Any person 14 years and older Any person who has resided in the state for more than one year, unless length of residence is reduced to 30 days in child's best interest or waive it altogether. 3 months; may be waived by court Human Services/Juvenile Not specified
MISSISSIPPI
93-17-1, et seq.; No
Any person 14 years and older Any unmarried adult, or husband and wife jointly. Must be Mississippi resident for 90 days preceding filing except under certain circumstances; couples of the same gender are prohibited from adopting. 6 months; waiting period may be shortened if child resided in adoptive home prior to entry of interlocutory decree or is stepchild of petitioner. Dept. of Human Services/Public Welfare/Chancery 6 months to challenge interlocutory decree; or 6 mos. from date of final decree
MISSOURI
453.010, et seq.; No
Any person 14 years and older Court may order joinder for spouse of petitioner. 6 months, may be waived by court in certain circumstances Social Services, Family Services Division/Juvenile Div. of Circuit Court 1 year
MONTANA
42-2-101, et seq.; Yes
Any person 12 years and older Unmarried person who is at least 18 yrs. old. Husband and wife jointly or may adopt separately when one spouse is a parent of the child. 6 months Department of Public Health and Family Services/District or Tribal Not specified

Table 23: Adoption—Continued

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
NEBRASKA
43-101 to 43-160; No
Any child. 14 years and older Any adult person may adopt minor child; adult child may be adopted by spouse of such child's parent. Husband and wife must jointly adopt child, unless he or she is parent of child. 6 months (except in adoptions of adult child) Department of Social Services/County 2 years
NEVADA
127, et seq.; No
Any person (consent of spouse required for adult persons) 14 years and older Minor: Any adult who is 10 years older than adoptee. If petitioner is married, spouse must join. Must have resided in state during 6 months preceding adoption. Adult: Any adult may adopt younger adult except spouse. 6 months Human Resources, Division of Child and Family Services/District Not specified
NEW HAMPSHIRE
170-B, et seq.; No
Any person 12 years and older Any person age 18 or older may petition to adopt any other individual except his or her spouse. Failure to join spouse to petition must be excused (unless other spouse is parent of person to be adopted and consents to adoption). 6 months Dept. of Health and Human Services/Probate 1 year
NEW JERSEY
9:3, et seq. (minor); 2A:22-1 et seq. (adult); No
Any person. If adult adoption, must be 10 years younger than petitioner 10 years and older (to be given consideration) Any person of at least 18 yrs. If petitioner is married, spouse must consent or application may be made jointly. Court may waive any of these requirements for good cause. 6 months Human Services/Superior, Chancery Division, Family Dept. Not specified
NEW MEXICO
32A-5-1, et seq. (minor); 40-14-1 thru 15 (adult); Yes
Any person; any adult with his consent 10 years and older Any individual approved by the court as a suitable adoptive parent. If petitioner is married, spouse must join unless natural parent of adoptee or legally separated or excused from joining by court. Nonresidents may adopt if adoptee is resident or was born in state, is less than 6 mos. old and was placed by agency licensed in state 60 days if less than one year old when placed; 120 days if more than one year old when placed (unless waived). Children, Youth and Families Dept./District Children and Court Division 1 year (except where Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 prevails)

Table 23: Adoption—Continued

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
NEW YORK
Dom. Rel. §109-117; Yes
Any person 14 years and older. Adult unmarried person or adult husband and wife together unless legally separated pursuant to decree or for at least 3 yrs. prior to filing. Adult or minor husband and wife, together or separately, may adopt child either born in or out of wedlock. 3 months; may be waived by judge As defined by social services law/Family Not specified.
NORTH CAROLINA
§48-1-100, et seq.; No
Any person; any adult with his consent; spouses may not adopt each other 12 years and older Any adult person over 18 yrs. old or husband and wife jointly or one spouse gives consent, only one unmarried person may file. Must have resided in North Carolina for six months next preceding filing of petition. Residency requirement waived under certain circumstances. At least 90 days Health and Human Services/Superior 6 months
NORTH DAKOTA
14-15-01, et seq.; Yes
Any person 10 years and older Unmarried adult or parent of child to be adopted. Husband and wife jointly unless legally separated or excused. 6 months Human Services/District 1 year
OHIO
3107.01, et seq.; Yes
Any child; certain adults only. 12 years and older Unmarried adult; unmarried minor parent of adoptee; husband and wife (at least one of whom is adult) together, unless legally separated or under certain other circumstances. 6 months Human Services/Probate 1 year
OKLAHOMA
Tit.10 §7501-1.1, et seq.; No (but some section incorporated)
Any person; any adult with his consent 12 years and older. Husband and wife, or either if other spouse is parent of child; unmarried person 21 years or older; married person 21 years or older who is legally separated from spouse. 6 months, discretionary Department of Human Services/District 1 year
OREGON
109.304, et seq.; No
Any person; any adult who consents 14 years and older Any person who is a resident of Oregon for 6 months. If petitioner is married, spouse must join. Compliance with Indian Child Welfare Act required if applicable. Not required Dept. of Human Services/Probate or Circuit 1 year

Table 23: Adoption—Continued

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
PENNSYLVANIA
Tit. 23 §§2101 to 2910; No
Any person 12 years and older Any person Not required, but may do temporary placement Pennsylvania Adoption Cooperative Exchange (PACE) in Dept. of Public Welfare/Common Pleas Not specified
RHODE ISLAND
15-7-2, et seq.; No
Any person 14 years and older Any person residing in state may adopt any person younger than himself. If petitioner is married, spouse must join; however, requirement may be waived if it can be shown adoption would be in child's best interest. Nonresident may petition under certain circumstances. 6 months, but court may waive for good cause Child Welfare Services Dept. for Children and their Families/Family (adults-Probate) 180 days
SOUTH CAROLINA
20-7-1646 to 1890; No
Any child present in state; any adult 14 years and older Any South Carolina resident may petition court to adopt child. Nonresidents may apply in exceptional circumstances. Any adult person may adopt any other adult person. 90 days State Dept. of Social Services/Family Relief may be granted after duty of decree only for extrinsic fraud
SOUTH DAKOTA
25-6-1, et seq.; No
Any person 12 years and older Any adult person may adopt any child at least 10 years younger. Any adult may adopt another adult with the latter's consent. Spousal consent required. 6 months Social Services/Circuit 2 years, except for fraud
TENNESSEE
36-1-101, et seq.; No
Any person 14 years and older Any person over 18 years of age who has been Tennessee resident for 6 months. Residency requirement may be waived under certain circumstances. Spouse shall join in petition if competent (unless natural parent of child to be adopted) 1 year Children's Services/Chancery or Circuit 1 year
TEXAS
Fam. Ch. 162.D01; No
Any person 12 years and older Any adult. If petitioner is married, spouse must join. (unless one is parent of child) 6 months (may be waived) Human Services/District 6 months

Table 23: Adoption—Continued

State/Code Section; Uniform Act Who May Be Adopted Age that Child's Consent Needed Who May Adopt Adoptive Home Residency Prior to Decree State Agency/Court Statute of Limitation to Challenge
UTAH
78-30-1, et seq.; No
Any child 10 years younger than petitioner; any adult 12 years and older Any adult. Must have consent of spouse if married. A single person who is "cohabitating" and involved in a sexual relationship without being married may not adopt. 6 months; 1 year for adoptive stepparents Child and Family Services/District or Juvenile Cannot be contested after entry of final adoption decree
VERMONT
Tit.15A §§1-101, et seq.; No
Any person; if adult, must have his and any spouse's consent 14 years and older Any person. If petitioner is married, spouse must consent. Parent and partner may adopt if in best interest of the child. 180 days Social & Rehabilitation Services/Probate Not specified
VIRGINIA
63.2-1200, et seq.; No
Any child; adult under certain conditions 14 years and older Any natural person may petition to adopt minor child. If petitioner is married, spouse must join. Any natural person may adopt another adult under certain conditions. 6 months (may be omitted by court) Public Welfare or Social Services/Circuit 6 months
WASHINGTON
26.33.140; No
Any person 14 years and older Any legally competent person, 18 years of age or over. Not required Social & Health Services/Superior 1 year
WEST VIRGINIA
48-22-101, et seq.
Any person 12 years and older Any person not married or any person with his or her spouse's consent or husband and wife jointly. 6 months Department of Human Services/Circuit 6 months
WISCONSIN
48.81, et seq.; 882.04; 808.04(7); No
Any person minor; adult No child's consent required; however, minors 12 and older must attend hearing unless court orders otherwise. Unmarried adult, husband and wife jointly, spouse of minor's parent may adopt minor. Must be Wisconsin residents and (if practicable and if requested by birth parent) of same religion as adoptee's natural parents. Any resident adult may adopt any other adult. 6 months Department of Health & Social Services/Circuit 40 days
WYOMING
1-22-101; et seq.; No
Any person 14 years and older Any adult person who has resided in state during 60 days immediately preceding filing of petition and who is determined by court to be fit and competent to be a parent. 6 months Department of Family Services/District  
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over 7 years ago

I am UK citizen wishing to adopt my 20 yr old step daughter.

Unfortunately adult adoption is not recognised in the UK.

I am 61 yrs old and have been happily married to my daughter's mother for 19 yrs.

Is it possible for me to adopt my daughter in a US state.

Vote down Vote up

almost 2 years ago

Thanks for your article, it can help me.
Really your post is really very good and I appreciate it.
It’s hard to sort the good from the bad sometimes,
You write very well which is amazing. I really impressed by your post.

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