May 27, 2020

Who can adopt? Who can be adopted?

Laws vary from state to state as to who is eligible to adopt and who is eligible to be adopted.

Who is eligible to adopt a child?

Generally, any single adult or a husband and wife jointly may be eligible to adopt. In addition, a stepparent may be eligible to adopt the child of his or her spouse. In some States, married persons may be eligible to adopt by themselves if they are legally separated from their spouse or if their spouse has been declared legally incompetent.

eligible for adoption

How old must you be to adopt?

  • In Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Washington, parents are eligible to adopt at 18 years of age;
  • In Colorado, Delaware, Oklahoma and American Samoa, parents are eligible to adopt at 21;
  • In Georgia and Idaho, parents are eligible to adopt at age 25;
  • There are a small number of states allow minors to adopt should the minor be the spouse of an adult adoptive parent;
  • In California, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota, Utah, and the Northern Mariana Islands, parents must be at least 10 years older than the person to be adopted;
  • In Puerto Rico, adoptive parents must be at least 14 years older than the person to be adopted;
  • In Idaho, adoptive parents must be at least 15 years older than the person to be adopted.

How long must you live in a state before you can adopt in that state?

  • In 17 states, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands adoptive parents are required to be residents of that state. Residency requirements range from 60 days to 1 year;
  • In some states, including South Carolina and Indiana, a nonresident can adopt a child with special needs;
  • In Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Rhode Island, a nonresident may adopt a child with the assistance of an agency.

Are gay and lesbian couples eligible to adopt?

  • Currently, Florida and Mississippi, prohibit adoption by homosexuals;
  • Couples who live together, but are not legally married are cannot adopt in Utah;
  • In Connecticut, the sexual orientation of the prospective adoptive parent may be considered, but should not be held in a discriminatory manner.

Who is eligible to be adopted?

While all states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, deem children eligible for adoption, some states also allow make adults eligible for adoption.


  • In Colorado, Indiana, and Rhode Island, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands the child must be under age 18 to be eligible for adoption;
  • In Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, Texas, and Wisconsin, American Samoa, and Guam specify in statute that the child must have been declared legally free for adoption;
  • In Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands children to be adopted must be in state at the time the petition is filed;
  • In Iowa, children that are eligible for adoption must have resided in state and in the home of the adoptive parents for a minimum of 180 days.


  • 26 States and the District of Columbia deem any person eligible for adoption;
  • Colorado, Rhode Island, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands allow parties to adopt persons over 18 but under 21;
  • In Nevada, the adult to be adopted must simply be younger than the prospective parent;
  • In West Virginia parents who are eligible to adopt must be a state resident to adopt an adult;
  • In Alabama, adults who are permanently and completely physically or mentally disabled in order to be eligible for adoption;
  • In Ohio, an adult may be adopted when the person is permanently disabled, mentally retarded, or is the stepchild or foster child and has an already established relationship with the adoptive parents;
  • In Idaho, Illinois, and South Dakota, the adopting parent be in a sustained parental relationship lasting from 6 months to 2 years, with the adult to be adopted;
  • In Virginia, an adult stepchild, niece or nephew who is at least 15 years older than the parents can be adopted so long as the adult resided in the home for at least 3 months prior to reaching adulthood.

The following link will provide you with more information on a particular state’s adoption statutes: