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 (31)
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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
Sheila - 7 months ago
1 1 4
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!!!! #2
shakerra - 4 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 #3
M. - 2 months ago
0 0 1
I have two niece's and they are the ages 3 and 4. Their mother and my brother aren't together, they've been on and off since my brother was sixteen. Recently there has be major issues to the point my husband and i want to step in and adopt or take full guardian ship of the girls, but we don't know how to go about doing that. My niece's live a couple hours from us and when we ask to go seem them we aren't able to as she won't allow anyone to speak with them or get any information. She is also pregnant with my brothers third child and we can't get any information on that child. But when the time comes we would like to take full custody of all three kids. How can I go about doing that? Any suggestions? #4
Help - 2 months ago
0 0 1
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 #5
Danie - 2 months ago
0 0 1
My nephew isn't born yet but is due in June and his parents both have lost rights to him because of drugs. I was wondering if there was any way I could adopt him or somehow get custody of him once he is born? I don't want my nephew to be in foster care I want him to be with the family and I am willing to take him. Please email me @ hazaraflame if you have any answers for me please and thank you #6
Guest - 3 weeks ago
Im looking into adoption of my granddaughter CP's gave mW custody a few yrs back the man my daughter said was her dad isn't after I called her out on it n my daughter chooses men over her kids but I only have the oldest one because she has a voice n doesn't want to live with her mom anymore because she was the "mom" in that household n couldn't take it anymore my daughter has 4 more kids living in that home n she doesn't want to change her lifestyle so I need to do this n since my granddaughter has been with me she is a straight a student now in high school #7
Danielle Hudson - 3 weeks ago
After being in relationship with him for 3 years, he broke up with me, I did everything possible to bring him back but all was in vain, I wanted him back so much because of the love I have for him, I begged him with everything, I made promises but he refused. I explained my problem to someone online and she suggested that I should rather contact a spell caster that could help me cast a spell to bring him back but I am the type that never believed in spell, I had no choice than to try it, I mailed the spell caster, and he told me there was no problem that everything will be okay before three days, that my ex will return to me before three days, he cast the spell and surprisingly in the second day, it was around 4pm. My ex called me, I was so surprised, I answered the call and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that happened, that he wanted me to return to him, that he loves me so much. I was so happy and went to him, that was how we started living together ha #8
dejane - 3 months 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? #9
Roxanne - 4 days ago
I wrote a novel where a paternal grandmother adopts her granddaughter and then has to confront the mother three years later. You might be interested in it. It is called “Nerve” and I am S.R. Skelton. It’s on #10
Lisa - 9 months ago
1 0 3
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? #11
guest - 1 week ago
What right does my niece have who was adopted by my cousin years ago. She is now 15 does not want to love with them and is mistreated by them who now have two biological children themselves. Can she go to the courts and get emasipated and ask to live with me her material aunt? #12
Jose - 2 months 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 #13
adoptbaby - 3 weeks ago
Hello to those of you looking for baby to adopt, am Brothon by name and am from Maryland USA, lots have a set of twins boy and girl here, they don't have all it takes to take care of them as they have made their decision to put them for adoption, interested couples looking forward to adopt the babies should please contact Bronthonadoptionservice@ hot mail. com, they don't just want the little children to suffer anymore please HELP by coming to take them from me, or text xxxxx thank you. #14
adoptbabies - 3 weeks ago
Hello to those of you looking for baby to adopt, am Brothon by name and am from Maryland USA, lots have a set of twins boy and girl here, they don't have all it takes to take care of them as they have made their decision to put them for adoption, interested couples looking forward to adopt the babies should please contact xxxx, they don't just want the little children to suffer anymore please HELP by coming to take them from me, or text xxxxx thank you. #15
maria - 2 weeks ago
My son and daughter in law have had their prental righs taken away in Arizona my sister is trying to adopt my grandson is there anything i can do to adopt him instead #16
Heather - 3 months ago
0 0 1
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
louis - 11 months ago
0 1 2
How long would it take for an uncle to adopt his nephew to live with him in florida #18
Carole - 2 months 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? #19
Alexis - 1 month ago
Im 17 will be 18 in june, my foster mom gets an adoption check for me but i dont live with her and she wont give me any money to get the things that i need. what do i do? #20
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