Relative Adoption

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There are several factors to consider in relative adoptions:

  • Adoption laws are generally state laws and can differ substantially from one state to another.
  • In light of the differences in state adoption laws, the following is general information for your consideration. There is no substitute for advice from a competent licensed adoption attorney in your area who is familiar with the legal intricacies. (To find an adoption attorney, visit the Directory of Professionals.)
  • "Relative adoptions" are not the same as "stepparent adoptions." {For information, see Stepparent Adoption.)

In most states, relative adoptions are treated somewhat less formally than non-relative ("stranger") adoptions. They may require only an abbreviated homestudy, or none at all. For this preferential treatment to apply, the adoption must fit the definition of a relative adoption under state law. Most state laws define "relative" by degree of relatedness. For example, Arizona adoption law defines a "relative" as "uncle, aunt, adult sibling, grandparent or great-grandparent of the child of the whole or half-blood or by marriage or adoption." Not fitting in this general definition are cousins of any degree or children of nieces or nephews. You will need to consult your attorney or the specific law in your state.

General Considerations

  1. Just as with any adoption, there must be a proper termination of the parental rights of both the child's biological parents. New birth certificates are issued, and adoption records are sealed in accordance with state laws.
  2. Adopting a close relative's child may be the best solution for the child, but it can cause a radical change in the dynamics of your relationship with that relative. These types of relationships have the potential to become strained or severely damaged due to questions of "quasi co-parenting" and exactly who is the child's parent. The reality is that this dynamic will be different for everyone involved, including all family members, and extending to other children the biological parents may have now or in the future. You will be confronted with questions of relatedness (is your child their cousin? sibling? aunt? uncle?), among others. Can this be done? Yes. Will it be a snap? No. The openness encouraged in adoptions today will help communication with all parties, and those experienced with relative adoptions strongly recommend counseling before and after the adoption whenever possible.
  3. Depending on the child's age and the circumstances of the adoption, talking to your child about the adoption may involve additional complexities due to previous and current relationships, death and grief, disappointments, and human failings. Do seek out support groups and educational books and tapes.

Additional Resources

Relative Adoption Forum
Grandparent Adoption Forum
Book: Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child

For more information specific to Grandparent Adoption and more options available to those who are caring for related children, including adoption, guardianship, legal custody, and open adoptions, see Legal Options for Relative Caregivers.

Related Articles

Keeping the Family Tree Intact
Encyclopedia: Family Preservation
Adopting My Nephew: African-American and an Adopting Parent
Library of Articles on this Topic

Visitor Comments (26)
Adding your comments contributes to the adoption community. Please keep all comments on topic and civil. Visitors are invited to comment and vote for or flag comments based on appropriateness and helpfulness. All comments must adhere to our commenting rules and are subject to moderation.
Guest - 1 year ago
2 0 9
I am guardian of my Nephew,My Sister is Dead 5 years ago and the Father of my nephew we dont have contact since my nephew 3 years old tell now.My Nephew is 10 years old now.My Husband And Me Have Plan to Adopt him.My Nephew still not register in NSO #1
shakerra - 2 months ago
0 0 3
I have a 6 year old cousin who dcfs from Florida tryna remove n she been here with me since she was 3years old I dont have cousdyof her but I want to hOw do I do it??? Plz help #2
Sheila - 5 months ago
1 1 3
My neice is 17 months old now, and I have raised her since birth. Her mother gave birth to her while she was incarcerated, and since her release 8 months ago hasn't even tried to contact her, and sent messages that she wants nothing to do with her. Her father is now incarcerated AGAIN, and looking at a substantial amount of time in prison. I was granted custody 9 months ago, and the judge granted nobody visitation rights to the child. I want to adopt her. I live in Virginia, and I am not even sure where/how to begin the process. Thank you! Good luck to all!!!! #3
dejane - 3 weeks ago
0 0 1
my aunt is planning on adopting me to the US so that I can have a better education however I am 16 years of age and I would like to attend a high school in florida so that I can easily attend university how long will I literally have to wait and is there any other way this process could take place quicker? #4
Jose - 4 days ago
0 0 0
I live in Alberta and have to beautiful girls. Their mom uses alcohol and drug so our kids got taken away by social services. And they not willing to return them to me and the best choice I have to give their guardianship to my mom till I can provide I can protect myself and my baby Gil's from their mom. So I have to leave them for a bit and already applied for grandma guardianship through court and hopefully she can get them back and I have to leave moms house for don't know how long but it's the best for them and I will provide financial for mom and them. Hope all children have better future #5
Help - 4 days ago
0 0 0
Me and my fiancé of three years have been taking care of his half niece. Her mother has told us she wants her own life and that we are her mom and dad. My fiancé is going to be 18 in three months and I in six months. His mother has guardianship of our niece, and has agreed to give us guardianship when we get married. My mother has planned on giving us a house when we get married and we plan to get the adoption started as soon as possible. How do I get the papers for her to sign, and how can we be givin guardianship. I know we have to have a home study done but what else comes after they home study? Please help #6
Paulina - 2 weeks ago
0 0 0
My sister in law lost her right with my nephews in court so my mom and dad adopted them so now the kids are there's but my sister in law is giving my mom a very hard time she hides and stocks them just 2 see them and I don't think that is right because she is in another relationship that my nieces don't like so they don't want her in there lives?? What can we do stop that??! #7
Carole - 2 weeks ago
0 0 0
My husband an I have legal custody of our 2 yr old granddaughter the baby's father is no where to be found and our daughter is so strung out on Herion it's sickening she signed legal custody to us, but if she we're o die what do we need to do to adopt? #8
Ivan - 8 months ago
2 1 3
Im ivan, i am 11 years old and my brother is 10. My grandpa's sister has been taking care of us since birth. My mom is in the same city that i am in now but is addicted to narcotics. The last time i saw her was at my local church. She noticed me but stayed quiet, i noticed her because of the pictures i've seen throughout my life. I could tell she was still addicted, she was dirty had 2 other kids with her and with ripping clothes on. Another man walked in the church and stood in the back with her, im guessing that was her boyfriend. By the time they were about to serve the bread shr ran out in tears. That was the only time i saw her since i was born, i was 10 at the time. My dad still supports and I love my real biological parents very much still. I thank my real mom for giving birth to me and my brother so that i can live in the good hands that i am in now. we are now saving money for my parents now to addopt me and my brother. #9
Reyna - 1 day ago
0 0 0
I have 3 beautiful nieces all born in MX, oldest is 6 years old. How can I adopt them to be in Arizona? What is the process? #10
louis - 9 months ago
0 1 2
How long would it take for an uncle to adopt his nephew to live with him in florida #11
Ann - 1 month ago
0 0 0
My husband and I has a great niece who is 18 months old that is up for adoption. We want to adopt her but the foster parents are intervening to try to adopt her as well. We are perfectly capable and willing to adopt her but the case manager says the foster parents has a chance because they had her for nine months and they say it can hurt her development. How is it possible that the foster parents even has a chance for adoption if they can identify a family member who is willing to take her? #12
Lisa - 7 months ago
1 0 2
I want to adopt my two year old cousin who my uncle just learned he was the father of and her mother does not want. How do I go about doing so and about how much will it cost? #13
Jalen - 3 weeks ago
0 0 0
I'm Jalen, I'm 14 years old. I live with my mom and step-dad. My real dad died 7 years ago. I feel like my parents could care less about me and my step-dad drinks a lot so I wanted my grandparents to take custody of me. #14
Siya - 4 weeks ago
0 0 0
My fiance wants to adopt my daughter. We are in SA and my daughters dad is somewhere in the UK and we have no contact. Can i just say "father unknown" ? #15
Paden, Jarius, Zacheriah - 7 days ago
0 0 0
We will find each other some day soon #16
Heather - 2 months ago
0 0 0
My sister wants me to adopt her unborn child and I would love too but I don't know where to start. Any advice? #17
Guest - 3 months ago
0 0 0
i am a guardian of my god daughters son. I have had him since he came home from the hospital. he is now 2 years old, i think the time has come for me to adopt him. just dont know if i can afford it. #18
Sandy - 3 months ago
0 0 0
I am 20 years old and I am in the military I want to adopt my two brothers who are in CA with my mom. She is willing to give her parental rights to me, how do we go about this? #19
Amanda - 2 months ago
1 0 0
I would like to adopt my 7 year old cousin. Her mother is addicted to meth, in and out of jail, can't hold a decent job for more than a month, her mother doesn't take her to school. Because of that she has the mentality of a 4 or 5 year old instead of a first grader. I have so much more, but I need to know if any of theses grounds would help me adopt her without her mothers permission. Any advice is welcomed. #20
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