Adult Adoption in South Carolina

Adult child over 18 happy and hugging her adoptive mother - adult adoption concept

Adults adopting adults is not the first thing most people think of when they hear the word “adoption.” And while adult adoption certainly isn’t as common as adoption of an infant or child, it’s more common than you might think.

What is Adult Adoption?

Adoption is a legal mechanism for creating a parent-child relationship and the legal rights that go with that relationship. Adult adoption simply creates that relationship between the adoptive parent and another person who is 18 or older. If you look at adoption from the perspective of creating legal rights, rather than the desire to raise a child, it’s easy to understand why one adult, or a couple, might adopt another adult.

Why Pursue an Adult Adoption?

There are many reasons to consider adult adoption. Creating legal rights, such as the right to inheritance or government benefits, is one reason. Another is simply to formalize a relationship that has existed for some time—to make the legal relationship reflect the emotional one. Situations in which people might pursue an adult adoption include:

  • An adult without children is particularly close to a friend or family member and wants them to inherit their estate
  • A stepparent raised a stepchild but never took the steps to formally adopt them before the child turned 18, perhaps because the biological parent would not consent to the adoption
  • Foster parents want to formalize the parent-child relationship with a foster child who has “aged out” of the system
  • The adult being adopted is disabled and unable to care for themselves; the adoption may provide access to health insurance they would not otherwise have

As with adoption of a child, adopting an adult creates a relationship that, legally speaking, is the same as if the adoptee had been born to the adoptive parent. It is not something to be undertaken casually or lightly; it is a permanent relationship.

How Can You Adopt Someone Over 18 in South Carolina?

In most cases, adopting an adult is less complicated than adopting a child. When an adult adopts a child who is not already living in the home, there are often home studies and other steps that must be taken to ensure that the intended adoptive parents can provide a suitable environment and care. When adopting an adult, by contrast, the process is relatively straightforward. The adopting parent needs to file adult adoption papers (the adoption petition) in the family court for the South Carolina county in which the adopting parent lives. The adult being adopted must consent in writing to the adoption; if the adopting parent is married, their spouse needs to consent to the adoption, as well. If the prospective adoptee is legally incapacitated and cannot give consent, their legal guardian may consent to the adoption.

After the adoption petition and any required consents are filed with the court, the court will schedule a hearing on the petition. The purpose of the hearing is to determine if the adoption is in the best interests of the persons involved in the adoption. That is often a straightforward determination, since the adopting parents and adoptee frequently have a long-standing relationship. Still, because of the permanence of the relationship, and the rights adoption creates in some people and severs in others, it is important to have this hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, if there is no reason to deny the petition for adoption, the adoption will be finalized.

How Much Does it Cost to Adopt an Adult?

Because there are generally no investigations required in an adult adoption, and relatively little paperwork, adopting an adult is typically much less costly than adopting a child. That said, the exact cost depends on the circumstances.

If you are considering adopting a child who is almost 18 years of age, you may want to think about whether it makes sense to delay petitioning for adoption until they become a legal adult. Not only will the process be easier and less costly, but you may avoid issues with a biological parent who does not want to consent to the adoption. After the child turns 18, they can consent to their own adoption. However, you will want to balance the potential advantages of delaying the adoption against the risks of waiting. An experienced South Carolina adoption attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of adult adoption.

To learn more about adult adoption in South Carolina, please contact Brinkley Law Firm.

Categories: Adoption