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Who May Adopt & Who May be Adopted


The scope of who may adopt and who may be adopted varies from state to state. In general, many states place few restrictions and have broad criteria outlining whether a person is eligible to adopt or to be adopted. This information only addresses whether a person is eligible to adopt or be adopted. Each state has additional requirements (such as consent and home study) that must be satisfied before a court will issue an adoption decree.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who may adopt?

A: Generally most adults, whether single or married, may adopt. Some states only require that an adoptive parent be an adult; however, most states have additional limitations regarding age, martial status, or other factors. In addition, a stepparent may usually adopt his or her spouse’s child.

Q: Are married people required to adopt together?

A: Most states require married couples to adopt jointly. However, some exceptions include situations involving incapacity, prolonged absences, legal separation, or if a spouse unreasonably withholds consent.

Q: Must the adoptive parents live in the same state as the child?

A: No. However, many states require an adoptive parent to live in the state of adoption anywhere from six months to a year before filing a petition for adoption. Some states permit non-resident parents to adopt. In those cases, the adoptive parent usually must file their petition in the state where the child resides.

Q: Is there an age requirement to adopt?

A: Most states do not specify an age. Some states require there to be a minimum age difference between the adoptive parent and the adopted person. In the case of an adult adoption, a few states also require that the person being adopted be younger than the adoptive parent(s).

Q: May minors adopt?

A: A few states permit minors to adopt under specific circumstances. If the minor is the spouse of an adult who is trying to adopt, then the minor may be allowed to adopt as well because states usually require both spouses to adopt together.

Q: How does sexual orientation affect the eligibility to adopt?

A: Please refer to our FAQ document on Same-Sex Couples for detailed information.

Q: Who may be adopted?

A: All states permit adoption of a child. Approximately half of the states permit adoption of any person regardless of age.

Q: Are there limitations on adult adoption?

A: There are sometimes limitations on whether an adult may be adopted, such as restrictions against adopting a spouse. A few states only permit adoption of adults if the adult is disabled or mentally incapacitated or in cases where there has been an existing parent-child relationship.

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