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Adult Adoptions: A Growing Trend in Florida

Earlier in 2012, when the media learned that a 40-year-old South Florida polo tycoon adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend as his daughter, the awareness of adult adoption skyrocketed.  It was reported that the tycoon used the adoption process to protect his fortune from the family of a man he killed in a DUI crash.  Once his girlfriend became adopted, as the legal child of the tycoon, she was immediately entitled to at least a third of a multimillion dollar trust fund.  The tycoon’s attorney argued that “the adoption was meant to secure the assets of his children and family investments, nothing more.”  Nevertheless, ever since this case became public, Shorstein & Kelly has been inundated with requests for information about adult adoption.  As such, set forth below is a summary of the typical reasons, requirements and results for completing an adult adoption in Florida.*

Reasons for Adult Adoption:

Inheritance Purposes – In the past, adult adoptions served as a means of ensuring the passage of property rights or financial assets to the adopted individual more easily.  It was also used as a mechanism for protecting the family surname – later in life, a childless couple or a couple who bore only daughters could adopt an adult male to carry on the family name.

Formalized Existing Relationship – Through adult adoption, parents can now adopt an adult foster child or stepchild without the consent of the child’s parents or custodian.  In such a case, adult adoption is finalizing or formalizing an already existing relationship.  So to, adult adoption may be used to reestablish a formerly existed relationship – such as for children who find their birth family after reaching maturity or fathers who find children they were previously unaware of.

Providing Long-term Care – Utilizing the adult adoption process, an adult adoptor may become the responsible party and primary decision-maker for another adult’s care.  As such, the adopting adult can provide long-term care for someone who has diminished capacity, mental illness or disabilities.

Requirements for Adult Adoption:

The requirements for a Florida adult adoption are much simpler than those of a child adoption.  The only absolute requirement pertains to the consent of the adoptor and the adoptee – each of their consents is required.  If the adoptee is married, the spouse of the person to be adopted should consent to the adoption but such consent may be excused by the court for good cause or other reasons set forth in the statute.  The adoptee’s parents are not required to consent to the adoption – they are only required to receive notice of the final hearing.

Result of Adult Adoption:

Similar to a child adoption, with an adult adoption all existing legal relationships with the biological or custodial parents are severed.  Also, as part of the process, the adoptee will have an opportunity to change his or her name.  The new name (or the same name if the adoptee chooses not to change the name) will appear on the new birth certificate which will be issued subsequent to the completion of the adult adoption proceedings.  Just like a child adoption, the adoption records will be confidential and the file will be sealed.Adoption laws are enacted by each state and, therefore, the laws for states other than Florida may be vastly different.  Other states may have restrictions or requirements making adult adoption much more difficult.

* Adoption laws are enacted by each state and, therefore, the laws for states other than Florida may be vastly different.  Other states may have restrictions or requirements making adult adoption much more difficult.

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