Can You Adopt an Adult?

Oct 08, 2020   ·   4 minute read
Can You Adopt an Adult?

Families come in all different shapes and sizes and don’t just comprise the standard mum, dad and 2.4 children. Many of us joke that we would like to adopt a neighbour as a grandparent but in some families there is a real desire to adopt an adult, often because a step-parent wants to formally recognise their adult step-child or a parent wants to offer a home to a young adult following the death of the child’s parents or their alienation from their biological parents. In this blog we look at whether you can adopt an adult.

Can you adopt an adult in the UK?

Under UK law you can’t adopt an adult, whatever the motivation for your desire to adopt.  UK adoption law says that the child who is the subject of the adoption application must be:

  • Under the age of eighteen at the time that the adoption order application is made and
  • Unmarried and not in a civil partnership (and never been in such a relationship).

Sometimes people want to adopt a teenage relative from overseas or a young adult, thinking that adoption is a way of uniting the family in the UK.  Adoption of a child nearing the age of eighteen is technically possible but adoption solicitors recommend that specialist immigration law advice is taken before you proceed.

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What are the alternatives if you can’t adopt an adult?

As UK adoption law says that you can’t adopt anyone over the age of eighteen what are the alternatives to the making of an adoption order?


Some relatives of young people assume that they will be able to apply to the family court for a child arrangements order as an adoption order isn’t an option. However, UK children law says that a child arrangements order expires when a child reaches the age of eighteen and that an application for a child arrangements order should only be made in exceptional circumstances where a child is aged between sixteen and eighteen at the time of the court application.


If children court orders aren’t the solution then practical options include:

  • If having the same surname is important to both of you, the person you would like to adopt can change their name to your family name by deed poll
  • You can financially protect the person that you would like to adopt by making a Will and leaving a legacy or share of your estate to them. If you do not make a Will then they won’t be entitled to receive anything from your estate under intestacy rules if they are not closely biologically related to you and they haven’t been adopted by you
  • If the person you wanted to adopt wants to look after you then you can appoint them as an attorney in your Lasting Power of Attorney
  • If the person you would like to adopt doesn’t have capacity to make their own decisions (for example because of physical or mental impairment) you can ask the high court to make a declaratory order setting out with whom the person should live and have contact with. The high court only has the power to make this type of declaratory order in relation to an adult over the age of eighteen if the adult doesn’t have the capacity to make his or her own decisions.


If you would like to adopt an adult but realise that isn’t an option under UK law the best thing that you can do for the adult that you would like to adopt is to put your affairs in order and make sure that your paperwork, such as your Will and Lasting Power of Attorney , accurately reflects your wishes. Sadly, if you don’t sort out your Will and any associated paperwork the likelihood is that not only will you not be able to adopt your adult loved one but they may not benefit from your estate if you pass away. Preparation and paperwork is therefore essential to protect your loved ones.

How can Evolve Family Law adoption solicitors help?

At Evolve Family Law our specialist children and adoption solicitors can answer your questions about children and adoption law and help you with all your private client and Will needs. Call us or complete our online enquiry form . We can set up a meeting, video conference, skype or telephone appointment with one of our specialist solicitors.

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