Who May Adopt: Overview

Generally a single adult or a couple (husband and wife) can adopt a child. A step parent is permitted adopt the birth child of his or her spouse. In Washington DC and 17 other states, these are the only requirements. In some states, a married person legally separated from his or her spouse or whose spouse is legally incompetent can adopt singly.

Age Limit

Some states have imposed a minimum age limit for adopting parents.

State Age

Washington 18
Tennessee 18
New Jersey 18
Montana 18
Louisiana 18
Kentucky 18
Oklahoma 19
Delaware 19
Colorado 19
American Samoa 21
Idaho 25
Georgia 25

In some states a minor can adopt if he or she is

• married to an adult adoptive spouse
• unmarried birth parent of the (to be adopted) child

Age Gap

Some states require a minimum age difference between the child and the adoptive parents.

State Age Gap
Utah 10
South Dakota 10
New Jersey 10
Nevada 10
Georgia 10
California 10
Northern Mariana Islands 10
Puerto Rico 14
Idaho 15

Residency Requirements

17 States, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Island and Guam, the adoptive parent(s) must be resident(s) of the state for a certain period of time ranging from 60 days to one year. Non residents can adopt special needs children in Indiana and South Carolina. Rhode Island, New Mexico, Mississippi and Illinois permit non residents to adopt using the services of an adoption agency.

Gay and Lesbian Adoption

The law on gay and lesbian adoption is largely silent. Presently Mississippi and Florida have a total ban on adoption by homosexuals. In Utah a couple living together but not legally married cannot adopt. This can be interpreted to include adoption by same sex couples. In Connecticut although the state laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, there is no bar on considering the sexual orientation of the prospective adoptive parent.

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