In general, any single adult or a husband and wife jointly can be eligible to adopt. In addition, a stepparent can adopt the birth child of his or her spouse. In approximately 17 States and the District of Columbia, there are no additional conditions specified. In some States, married persons may adopt singly if they are legally separated from their spouse or if their spouse is legally incompetent.

In approximately six States (Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Washington), the age of adulthood for purposes of adoption is 18; three States (Colorado, Delaware, and Oklahoma) and American Samoa set the age at 21; and Georgia and Idaho specify age 25. A few States allow minors to adopt under certain circumstances, such as when the minor is the spouse of an adult adoptive parent, or when the minor is the unmarried birth parent of the child to be adopted.

In approximately six States (California, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Utah) and the Northern Mariana Islands, the adopting parents must be at least 10 years older than the person to be adopted. In Puerto Rico, the adopting parent must be at least 14 years older; in Idaho, the parent must be at least 15 years older.

Approximately 17 States, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands require that petitioners for adoption be State residents. The required period of residency ranges from 60 days to 1 year. There are exceptions to the residency requirement in some States. For example, in South Carolina and Indiana, a nonresident can adopt a special needs child; in Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Rhode Island, a nonresident may adopt through an agency.

Gay and Lesbian Adoption

The statutory laws in most States are largely silent on the issue of adoption by gay and lesbian persons. At this time, only two States, Florida and Mississippi, explicitly prohibit adoption by homosexuals in their statutes. Utah bars adoption by persons who are cohabiting but not legally married; this language could be interpreted to encompass gay and lesbian adoptions. In Connecticut, the sexual orientation of the prospective adoptive parent may be considered, notwithstanding provisions in the State’s laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

From the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

SOURCE: FindLaw