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 (16)
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 - 12 months ago
1 0 7
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
Ivan - 6 months ago
0 1 2
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. #2
Robin - 1 month ago
0 0 0
My granddaughter twins were adopted by their mother's step sister and her husband. My daughter loved her daughters so much but was influence by be people from got her on drugs. From the time the twins came home from the hospital weighing 4 lbs, they stayed at our home on and off all the time until they were 15 months old. The twins were with us regular until one weekend they went home with their mother, we were going out of town. Came home and the girls were gone, I knew it had been talked about because the couple couldn't have children, but these are my granddaughters. We wanted to keep them but my oldest daughter said we were getting to old and I was having health issues at the time. It has now been 6 months and my daughter is doing great, no longer around those bad people, she wants her girls back.a She was told that she couldn't get them back at all because of the way the wording was in the adoption papers. I'm wanting the girls if my daughter can't have them. #3
Amanda - 2 weeks ago
0 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. #4
Tamsin - 2 months ago
0 0 0
My husband and I have raised our grandson since birth. His mother gave birth while living with us and we brought them both home from the hospital. She fell back into drugs in no time and tried to bring high druggie friends into our home. I threw her out, and when she tried to take my grandson, I told her it would be over my dead body or hers. She left when I threatened to call the police. He is now 7 1/2 years old and we want to adopt him so that he can have our military benefits and inherit our house and everything when he is older. She will sadly never be there for him. She used to try to take him if I didn't give her money for her drugs, but all I have to say is "let's call the police and get their take on this!!" and she backs off. Plus she has committed welfare fraud because she has gotten aid for him since birth but uses it for herself and her many druggie boyfriends. She is now willing to sign adoption papers but I need to find out where I go here in California. Good luck to all #5
Sheila - 3 months ago
0 0 0
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!!!! #6
louis - 7 months ago
0 1 2
How long would it take for an uncle to adopt his nephew to live with him in florida #7
Lisa - 5 months ago
0 0 1
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? #8
evelyn - 3 weeks ago
0 0 0
i am a guardian of a 2 year old little boy. my goddaughter gave him to me at birth. i am ready to adopt him, just dont know where to start or how much it cost. #9
Guest - 3 weeks 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. #10
Sandy - 1 month 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? #11
yolanda - 2 months ago
0 0 0
I want to adopt my granddaughter, but I don't know where to start #12
jerry - 7 months ago
1 1 0
Do I have a better chance to adopt my aunts great grand children than my nephew. If so why are they placing the kids with the nephew. They tell me because he has no kids and I have four foster children here. Don't make since to me. We see and talk with the children. My nephew doesn't. Why are they going against my aunt and uncles wishes. They have told st Francis they want us to have the kids not my nephew. He doesn't stay in contact with family. We do. My aunt and uncle want to see the kids. They can here. There no. They say they are to busy to visit. #13
Guest - 4 months ago
0 1 0
Looking grandparent adoption form #14
veronica - 1 year ago
4 1 4
My comment is in the form of a question about adoption. How do I go about adopting my own grandchild who lives in Trinidad.She is now 15years old. #15
Orange County cruput - 10 months ago
3 0 1
I have a 2nd degree niece that was tooken from parents. I was able to take her for 7 months then was asked if we would adopt we said yes, then they decided that she had to be with her brother in foster care so Orange County took her from us even after we said we would adopt the bother to. Ssw refuse to let us see her or talk with her. Claim she doesn't want to talk with us. Now the brother is going to go to his bio father and his sister has no bio family to be with. When she was with us we tryed to get her counseling but they said she didn't need it. After a month in the foster home mother said she was put on 3 different type of drugs and seeing a counselor 3 times a week reason why mother only gets one visit during the week. Mother has done all her plans 5 times and is still be told to do them again. #16
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