First, a disclaimer. I am not a lawyer, so all I found and write here is at best an educated guess. And I recognize that the fight against the laws, rules and regulations that keep people stateless is the first priority. Some might refuse to even consider any shortcuts to freedom like marriage or adoption, because it is degrading to subordinate such deeply personal matters to the circumvention of laws and regulations, no matter how bad these are. In the view of this and the many difficulties and problems with adoption, I can only guess that for many stateless people adoption is not an acceptable way to go.
On the other hand there may be a few situations where marriage or adoption are appropriate for one reason or another. In such a case it is useful to know the rules and to know what to expect. Marriage is an obvious case. I have not found a legal rule that marriage, or adoption, always conveys statehood, but I’m as good as certain that it does.
I will write about some of the basics that I have found for adoption. I am writing this mostly for Germany, because I know almost nothing about the rules in other countries. So the least I can do is provide a starting point and indicate which questions need to be asked.
When one hears “adoption”, the immediate association is a childless couple, adopting a young child for the mutual benefit of creating a normal family. However, the official rules are much wider.
- An adopting parent does not have to be childless. A child can be adopted into an existing family with children.
- An adopting parent does not have to be married. A single person can adopt a child.
- A person to be adopted (adoptee) does not have to be a child. At least in Germany adults can be adopted. There is no strict age limit.
However, there are some limitations. The biggest one is that at least the German rules prescribe that adoption should happen only when there is an emotional, loving family relationship between parent(s) and adoptee. Both the parent(s) and the adoptee should embrace the relationship and show that they care for each other.
In Germany the single adopting parent or the older parent of an adopting couple must be at least 25 years old. The younger parent must be at least 21 years old. This differs greatly from country to country. In the US, for example, adopting parents can be much younger and must be at least 18 years old.
A more relevant limitation is that the thus formed family should resemble a normal, biological family as far as the age structure is concerned. The ages of parents and children should resemble a normal, biological family. In particular this means that parents that are only five years older than an adoptee would officially not be accepted. 18 years would be fine. I don’t know where the limits are, but it probably depends a bit on the personality and mental age of the adoptee as well.
In the other direction there seems to be agreement that parents should not be older than the adoptee by more than 45 years.
The similarity to a normal, biological family does not extend to other characteristics, like skin color. The rules do not demand that a family with an adopted child has an appearance that is indistinguishable from a biological family. Otherwise we would have an egregious case of racial discrimination, which, fortunately, does not pass muster in today’s Germany.
If parents adopt a child, obviously the child will live in the parents’ home. I don’t think the adoption would be officially acceptable otherwise. But equally obviously, it cannot be demanded from an adopted adult to keep living with the adopting parents. I guess though that some official will try to judge whether the family has a reasonably tight emotional connection. I doubt that an adoption would be accepted if the adoptee immediately lived far away and only very rarely visited his or her new parents. I think the rules are not fixed here, but some official will try to judge the relation and find out whether the adoption leads to something like normal family life.
If somebody said, I want to adopt this person for the sole reason of conferring statehood, I’m sure this would officially not be accepted and so would not work.
Further complications arise from money. An adoptee acquires the same inheritance rights as biological offspring. In Germany this means, if the parents die, their wealth is evenly shared by the children, and that includes adopted children. There may be resistance from parents and prospective siblings, when an adopted person takes some of the wealth the biological chilren had hoped to inherit. A will, signed by the parents, can modify inheritance, but in Germany every child still has the right to inherit half of its share. In most normal cases the parents cannot avoid that. Forgoing inheritance by contract would most likely be regarded as “sittenwidrig” (immoral, against public policy) and would not be officially accepted. To my knowledge there are no special rules for adoptions that allow to give preference to biological children.
A possible way around this could be that the parents give their money to their biological children already before they die. In Germany parents can leave €400,000 to each child every 10 years without incurring inheritance tax.
So perhaps the best situations are that the parents are either poor, so all this does not matter, or so wealthy that it is easy for them to be generous to an adopted child. And, of course, there are some families that love each other enough to gladly leave their wealth to all their children, biological and adopted.
However, this problem cuts both ways. Adoptees, just like biological children, are legally obliged to care for their parents financially, if the need arises. The typical case is that the parents run out of money in old age and have an insufficient pension.The German rules prescribe that the children, adopted or not, have to contribute according to their financial abilities.
If you know something about adoption, please report, particularly if anything in the above text is wrong, incomplete, or misleading. If you hear of any case where a stateless person has been adopted, please report here.