The New Jersey Statute regarding adult adoption requires at least a ten year age difference between the adopting person or persons and the adoptee. A recent New Jersey Superior Court reasoned that this requirement served to ensure that some resemblance of a parent-child relationship exists between the parties.
Recently, an adult married couple, ages fifty and fifty three, applied to the New Jersey Superior Court to adopt a fifty-two year old woman that lived with the couple for ten years. The couple stated that they wanted to formalize their familial relationship with the woman and were not seeking to adopt the woman for inheritance purposes.
Having no case law addressing this issue, the New Jersey Court looked to our neighboring states of New York and Delaware for guidance. Both of these jurisdictions have ruled on the issue of whether a parent-child relationship is prerequisite for adult adoption. However, these jurisdictions have reached opposing conclusions.
The New York Court faced this issue when a fifty-seven year old male sought to adopt his fifty year old homosexual partner. The Court held that "where the relationship between the adult parties is utterly incompatible with the creation of a parent-child relationship, an adoption should not be granted by the Court." In other words, the New York Court found that a party seeking to adopt another adult must prove that a parent-child relationship exists between the parties.
However, a Delaware Court was faced with the same issue, where a sixty-six year old male sought to adopt his fifty-one year old homosexual partner. The Delaware Court held that a parent-child relationship is not a condition to adult adoption. The Court distinguished their decision from the New York decision in that the Delaware statute governing adult adoption did not require an examination into the best interests of the adoptee.
Like New York, the New Jersey Statute governing adult adoption requires the Court to perform an inquiry into the best interests of the adoptee. As a result, the New Jersey Court interpreted this best interest requirement to require the parties to at least establish that there existed a parent-child relationship, especially since the age-requirement was not met.
This recent case gives us an answer that adults seeking to adult other adults must prove a parent-child relationship exists between the adopter and adoptee, especially if the ten-year age requirement is not satisfied.