Call us: Mon - Fri 8:30am - 7pm, Sat - Sun 9am - 5pm
Call local rate 0330 056 3171
Mon - Fri 8:30am - 7pm | Sat - Sun 9am - 5pm
Call local rate 0330 056 3171
Mon - Fri 8:30am - 7pm | Sat - Sun 9am - 5pm

Is adult adoption a good idea?

Recent Posts

Sometimes an idea comes at you from left-field, being something that had never occurred to you previously.

I may be wrong, but I cannot recall ever previously hearing of, or considering the idea of, adults being adopted. However that is just the idea that I came across the other day in a story in the Scottish newspaper The Herald. The story reports that a campaigner is pressing members of the Scottish Parliament to change the law to allow ‘parents’ to adopt adults.

Under the law in both Scotland and England only a child can be adopted – i.e. someone under the age of 18. However, the campaigner, who is 27 years old, wishes to be adopted by his stepfather. The circumstances behind this are that the campaigner never knew his biological father and was raised by his stepfather (and his mother) from the age of 13. His mother and stepfather were married when he was 16. Obviously very close to his stepfather, when he was in his late teens he apparently looked into the possibility of being adopted by him, only to discover that it was too late as he was over 18.

The obvious question is: what difference would it make if he were adopted? Well, apart from the emotional effect of recognising the connection between parent and child, three perhaps more ‘concrete’ reasons are given by the campaigner. Firstly, the transfer of inheritance rights on intestacy – adopted children are treated the same as biological children, and so can inherit from an adoptive parent. Secondly, “restoring an original relationship between adult adoptees and their biological family”, by which I take to mean that the child is adopted by their biological parent, having previously been adopted by someone else. The third reason is the obvious one of formalising the relationship of a stepchild and their step parent.

And despite my previous ignorance, adult adoption is something that apparently already exists in several other countries, including the US, Canada, Germany and Japan. I haven’t made any study of how it operates in those countries, although I understand that in Germany, for example, there are rules designed to prevent its misuse.

Okay, so what are my thoughts on adult adoption?

Well, as to those three reasons for adult adoption, the first one seems to me to be the most significant, certainly from a legal point of view. I understand that in Japan, for example, adult adoption is used as a way to make sure family businesses survive when there are no heirs to take over. However, two obvious points strike me: firstly, that there should be appropriate safeguards to prevent the process being abused by the adopted ‘child’, in order to gain an inheritance. Secondly, the situation could of course simply be resolved by the parent making a will in which they leave an inheritance to the child.

As to the second reason, a similar result could of course be achieved by revoking the adoption order, thus restoring the legal relationship between the child and its biological parent. Although it is extremely rare, an adoption order can be revoked. Back in 2015, for example, Mrs. Justice Pauffley revoked an adoption order more than 10 years after it was made. However, she made it quite clear that such revocation should only be granted in exceptional circumstances, as adoption is intended to be final. Whether the need to ‘restore’ a biological relationship (perhaps alongside the breakdown of the relationship between the child and its adoptive parents) would be sufficiently exceptional to warrant revocation, I could not say. Still, the possibility is there in existing law, without the need for an adult adoption.

To conclude, I’m not really sure that adult adoption is necessary, at least from a legal point of view. As we have seen, similar results can already be achieved using existing laws. On the other hand, is there any harm in it, provided there are appropriate safeguards? The answer to this may well be no, although somehow I can’t see the government (at least in Westminster) finding time for such a reform any time soon.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

Contact us

As the UK's largest family law firm we understand that every case is personal.


  1. Ayse Robson says:

    Is adult adoption a good idea? What do you think about inter country adult adoption cases then? Thank you.

    • Lewis says:

      yes i do as i don’t like my real parents as all things they lied about and put me inti care ar age off 8 im now 18 i still dont spesk to them i been moved around alot and now ive been with the parents i want to adopt me for 3 yeah and i just thought i wanted to get adopted but by then it was to late i turned 18 so i think adoption should be legal in the uk

    • Shauni Weeds says:

      I am 18 years old, I have a 3 month old little boy and loving fiance. My mum passed away last year just after my 17th birthday after a short but nasty battle with cancer. Me and my mum never had a great relationship growing up but it was good enough and looking back now i think it was just a teenager rebelling. Since then her best friend and partner (who is also my biological fathers brother, he isnt on the birth cert and has, nor wants any parental rights) have taken me under their wing as there daughter, they were never able to have any children so I have become the daughter they never had.

      Recently we have all decided that we would like for them to adopt me, which makes my family official and means I am not left alone. After looking into adult adoption I have discovered that it is not possible to do in the UK.

      For this law to be changed would mean the world to me, and my adoptive parents.

      Not only for inheritance purposes but it means that if the worst was to happen Im able to make important decisions on their behalf’s and even better it means my only little bit of family would finally be official.

    • Michele says:

      I would like to think that legislation will change eventually in Scotland.
      Although my step dad isn’t my biological father, i wouldn’t see him as anything else but my dad. My step dad married my mum when i was 12. I had no relationship with biological father and never seen him either. My step dad has always known me as his daughter and always reminded me that I’m loved very much. Even when my mum and step dad had a child together he treated me and my step brother exactly the same. I’m now 36 and my mum had been on at me for a while to maybe look into adoption or change my last name to the same as her, step dad and brother. Unfortunately my mum passed away suddenly 2 months ago and all i have left is my step dad and brother. For many reasons i would like to be adopted to have last name as them, it was something my mum wanted before she had passed and also if my step dad passes away, if he has no will in place i would not be entitled to anything especially since he has inherited quite a bit from my mum passing away. Not to do with money but if my step dad passed away my step brother would not be able to cope dealing with everything on his own as he has learning difficulties and would like it if we are able to do together.

  2. MWebb says:

    Dear Stowe.

    Thank you for your article, I am a literal case of an adult adoption, I’ve always had just one father but he was never on my birth certificate I am from South American origin and so is my mother and my father is British born and raised, I grew up with just my mom’s name on my birth certificate and it was only as an adult that I started to fill the need to have that gap filled, we went through a long judicial process abroad, the process was finilised a few years after we started dealing with it and my dad’s name was finally and at last included on my birth certificate and in all my documents but I have been living in another european country and the uk has been treating my like a fifth class citizen, dogs and cats have more rights than I do, my grand father passed away and I was refused entry totally and completely disturbing, something that is hard to forgive and that it can break anyone to pieces.

    I just wanted to add the humanity that is missing in your article things that a lot of us take for granted but it becomes extremely important someone who never had it, such as having a Sunday’s roast at dad’s, going to a game with your old man, looking after and carrying for someone and that feeling being mutual from both parties, ask anyone who’s never had a dad if a change and circumstances appeared for them to have one if they would mind. Deep inside there will be always that void, of course it is much better to fill it whilst you’re still young, sometimes it was already filled but it just needed that last touch which is the recognition in the eyes of the law.

    • P. GR says:

      I would like to add also to this article / opinion. I was recently thinking about looking for adoptive parents as I have lost my parents many years ago. I also have no living family. This is, as you may understand, very unsettling. I am also without children. The whole thought behind this, is to find people / families who are maybe childless too. I think it comes natural that the adopted person or the adoptive parents would both want to invest, not only financially, into this new build family situation. I believe the law needs to change in that points. As I remember there was an adoption case in German Prince v. Anhalt or similar who searched publicly for the right heir.

  3. Mrs V Smith says:

    Can you get an adult adoption done in another country if you are both uk citizens and still be legal in the uk?

    • Kate Nestor says:

      Thanks for your query I have passed your details to the Client Care Team who will be in touch. Regards,

      • Jessica Williamson says:

        I would also like the answer to this question above please
        “Can you get an adult adoption done in another country if you are both uk citizens and still be legal in the uk”

        • S. Madden says:

          I would like the answer to this question also. Our adopted son has an older brother who we have found and bought into our family. He was never freed for adoption and as an adult would love to be a legal part of our family.

          • T Johnson says:

            Could you please share the answer to this question? My step-daughter and I have been looking into this for years and she’s now 32 with 2 children. Anything you can tell us would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  4. Mr f says:

    Hi can you adopt an adult how live illegall in uk if the couple is both British citizens

    • Aaron says:

      In may not be the most pressing issue to you, but for myself and others it means the world. A relatively simple change to make with no real drawbacks. Why shouldn’t time be found for it?

  5. GC says:

    Only just come across this article. I got together with my wife in 2000 and we married in 2002.
    We both had one daughter from our previous marriages. My step-daughter has always lived with us, she was three in 2000, we have always had a fabulous relationship.
    Her biological dad lived locally and kept contact, we were all on good terms, he was a nice man, it just didn’t work between him and my wife.
    Sadly, her dad died in 2017.
    I would really love to adopt her but, now she’s an adult, I can’t. It would be more of a symbolic thing than anything relating to legal matters.
    It isn’t legal in the UK and I really can’t see any reason why this should be the case.

  6. Ianna says:

    Aren’t you forgetting one other legal issue? What about not having legal rights medically if something happens to your adult non adopted child? Or being able to bury them? Or having legal rights to their children?
    My foster daughter is now 22 and when she becomes a mother I will not be the legal grandmother but the fathers mother will be so if anything happened to her I would have no legal access. Similarly if she died her birth father who she was removed from has the legal right to her body not me! What is she was medically unable to make decisions for herself in a case such as a mental breakdown? I have no legal rights as her parent to be involved so yes I think there are many reasons that adult adoption should be allowed . I have 5 birth children and she matters as much but neither of us can provide each other with legal protections afforded to legal family connections . Maybe they should look at the recent change of law to civil partnerships and realise that there are other adult connections that need the security of a legal family document. It is breaching our rights to a family life same as the lack of civil partnerships were. We have no family legal protection without adoption pre 18!

  7. Edward Wolfe says:

    My (foster) daughter is aged 48 and I have been her dad for 38 years I am now 75 we have discussed adoption quiet often because at the moment we don’t appear to have any legal connection to each other, and I have no other family. I have written a will where she is the only beneficiary which is ok for some things , house etc but some other things such as varied finances seem something of a mine field and could be incredibly difficult for her to sort out if at all, with no legal connection. There is also a great bond between us where we try and work as a team, but would both rather it be as a family unit.So what I am asking 1) is it possible 2) if it is would you recommend it Obviously this is only the first tentative steps but any advice would be appreciated

    • Kate Nestor says:

      Thank you for your comment. I have passed it to our client care team who will put you in touch with a lawyer. Best,

  8. Carole Roose says:

    I have a question I want to ask my stepdad to adopt me but I’m 26 years old he has known since I was 14 and he is married to my biological mother for nearly 10 years I have two younger half siblings I don’t see my biological dad as he wants nothing to do with I don’t want nothing to do with him but I really want my stepdad to be my real dad in the eyes of the law

  9. karen game says:

    we wont to adopt our 22 year old foster son he had lived with us since aged 7 is there any possible way to make that possible

    • Kate Nestor says:

      Thank you for your enquiry – I have passed your details to our Client Care Team who will be able to advise you. Best wishes,

  10. Mrs Cooper says:

    My husband would dearly love to adopt my son whom he has raised since he was 4 years old he is now 35 my son is whole heartily for it would it be possible

    • Kate Nestor says:

      Thank you for your enquiry – I have passed your details to our Client Care Team who will be able to advise you. Best wishes,

  11. Kaitlinn says:

    Since I was 12/13 my mums partner has been like a father to me but I was coming towards the end of being 17 and the application said it had to be before then when he could adopt me. I’m now 21 and we are still looking. He lives in Scotland, I was born and still live in England.

  12. dale eekhout says:

    hi im dale 43 last year september this year 44 have been mishandelled in many ways not due to laziness but due to the fact that i suffer mental capabilities advantages and dis advantages
    i feel trapped in this family life that is controlling and manipulative and
    tryed to fit in even though i am bilogically son to mother i hope but lost bilogical father pass away few years ago and mother married 3rd time to a military police warrent officer life has become just unbearable and now im looking to find a family to adopt me or some one to share a life with that would continue to love me in ways that ive never known

  13. Stephen says:

    In my opinion, the UK legal system does not want adult adoption, because that would ’empower’ adults adopted as children and let them chose what they think is best for themselves. Potentially, a lot of adults who were adopted might apply to be re-adopted by their ‘real/actual/natural’ parent/s. There is the possibility that adults who are close to step-parent/s want that relationship legally recognised.

    It seems illogical: people over eighteen cannot be adopted, but adoption orders made before they were eighteen are still valid. Why? Guardianship orders are not. Could this be a violation of the Equality Act, or human rights declaration?

  14. jackie portman says:

    My daughter is desperate to be adopted by my husband. He’s been in her life since she was 4 but he was unable to adopt because of him having bipolar. Social services advised us not to go ahead. Which as we all know is discrimination.

    She’s now almost 29 and it’s what she wants so badly. We’d pay to do this. My husband adores her, I find it unfair they have been through so much together and he can’t be her Dad legally.

  15. Deeann says:

    Hi, I’m in the same boat, my step father has been in my life for 20 years, I never knew my b-father (my mother was in DV) and his past away now. I want be adopted by him not just for money, will. Because his the only man I know and with my daughter in the picture I want her to know that’s her grandad and if anything happens to my mother or me least I know he be there for her legally. I’m going to find out more because this means more then anything for me. Is it possible?!

  16. Rachel says:

    I am 36 years old , I don’t have much of good life with my family due to personal reasons and I am wondering if I could get adopted at my age and start a new life else where .

  17. Ashley says:

    I want my step father to adopt me he’s 71 so not getting any younger and I am 34 we really never thought about it before but now I am older I realise if anything happens to him his sons can over rule me although they are no where to be seen.

  18. Leighanne says:

    Please can you give me some more information how to get this done in the UK I’m nearly 36 and have my own children now and more than anything would love for me to not only be connected to my step dad but step siblings too we are a very close family but I do feel the odd one out not being fully his and we have tried looking into it for many years if anything was to happen to him I’m not allowed to be involved and that’s unfair his been in my life for 30 years

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Leighanne. I’ve passed your question on to our client care team who will be in touch. Best wishes

Leave a comment

Help & advice categories


Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for advice on divorce and relationships from our lawyers, divorce coaches and relationship experts.

What type of information are you looking for?

Privacy Policy