An adult woman with her adoptive elderly mother

Adult Adoption in Pennsylvania

When we think about adoption, we tend to picture a loving couple adopting a baby or young child. We rarely think about all of the adult children in need of the love and care of a parent. You are never too old to need a parent. As adult children, we regularly call our parents to ask why the yellow light in our car is flashing or whether we can mix the darks and the whites in the wash (wash it on cold!). By legally adopting another adult, you can ensure that parent/child relationship is legally protected.

Why Adults Adopt Adults

In most cases, adult adoptions take place between adults that already have an established parent/child relationship. Foster parents may wish to adopt foster children who have aged out of foster care. Stepparents may wish to adopt their spouse’s biological children. There are also instances where a person with physical disabilities or significant health concerns may benefit from an adult adoption.

No matter the specifics, adult adoptions provide legal benefits that could otherwise be put at risk. Once adopted, an adoptee (person being adopted) receives inheritance rights, social security benefits, access to medical records, and more. Adoptive parents can make medical and financial decisions to protect the adoptee. And, beyond the legal benefits, both parties can receive emotional benefits by formally establishing familial love and commitment.

Who can be adopted?

PA Statute 23 § 2311 states that any individual may be adopted, regardless of age or residence. Any adult aged 18 or older may adopt another adult aged 18 or older. The adoptive parent does not need to be older than the adoptee if both are 18 or older.

Who cannot be adopted?

The Court is likely to grant most, if not all, adult adoptions that pass through their doors. The following are circumstances where an adoption will not be granted:

  • If there’s a pre-existing sexual relationship between the adoptive parent and the adoptee.
  • If the adult adoptee or adoptive parent has been convicted of a felony or faces criminal charges.
  • If the adult adoptee is not competent enough to understand the process.
  • If there are fraudulent reasons for the adoption.

How can I adopt an adult in Pennsylvania?

Adult adoption takes place between two or more adults so the process is faster and cheaper than child adoption. When you adopt an adult in Pennsylvania, you are not required to go through the lengthy process at an adoption agency, complete a home study or submit to numerous background checks. Adult adoptions generally follow three steps:

  1. File an adoption petition—In addition to the adoption petition, you will also need to provide an original birth certificate for the adoptee and pay a filing fee.
  2. Obtain consent from the adoptive parent(s) and adoptee—This can look like writing a statement or checking a box and confirming the same at any adoption hearing in front of a Judge.
  3. Finalize the adoption at a court hearing—In most cases, the Judge will ask some questions about the adoption and confirm details before approving the adoption. Hearings for adult adoptions are often more ceremonial than anything else.

It’s important to note that each county has a slightly different process for submitting paperwork. For example, Montgomery County, Chester County, and Bucks County have Adoption Packets online that provide templates for the adoptee/petitioner to use and file with the Court. Berks County offers no such templates. Additionally, Chester County, among others, requires acknowledgment or proof that the adoptee is currently a resident of Chester County. These form templates are a good place to start to determine what information the Court requires for submission.

How long does it take to adopt an adult?

Because there are no home studies or adoption agencies involved, the process of adopting an adult is much quicker than that of adopting a child. In most cases, it can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to finalize an adult adoption. The actual length of time will vary depending on the county and available court resources.

Two elderly parents hugging their adopted adult children
An adult daughter handing vegetables to her adoptive father

Do birth parents need to be involved?

No. Because adult adoptions involve two adults, there is no need to terminate the birth parents’ rights as both are consenting adults. There is also no legal need to notify birth parents. It is, however, important to note that any legal rights between birth parents and the adoptee will be severed by the finalized adoption. Adoptees will no longer have inheritance rights, next-of-kin status, or other legal ties to their birth parents.

Do I have to Change my Name?

This question might have an obvious answer, but you also may be pleasantly surprised to learn that changing your name is entirely up to you as the adoptee. The adoption process makes no requirement upon you to change your name. However, if you decide to change your name, the Courts require that you submit to a criminal background check through fingerprinting, which must accompany your Petition for Adoption. Additionally, the adoptee/petitioner must also perform a lien search. Once the paperwork is filed, a hearing will be scheduled that both the adoptee and adoptive parent(s) must attend. Courts will also ask that you advertise the notice of hearing to ensure others who wish to contest the name change have a right to be heard.