I Was Adopted as an Adult

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

A few years ago, I participated in an online interview about adult adoption. I’ve received a few email inquiries about the process of adult adoption, and I realize that a lot of people didn’t even know that it was a thing.

I was adopted at the age of 24, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Before I begin this story, I need to clarify a few terms. When I say “biological father” or “father”, I’m referring to my mom’s first husband. When I say “dad,” I’m talking about the man who adopted me.

My mother’s second husband essentially raised me. Even before my mother left, he’d accepted me as his daughter. It did not matter to him that I wasn’t biologically his child. It didn’t matter that my mother would go on to marry again and have more children. It didn’t matter that he had a biological child. I was his daughter.

Adoption wasn’t in the cards when I was a child because technically I did have biological parents. My mother divorced my dad, and you cannot be adopted by a dad if your mother is married to somebody else. And there was no way in hell that she would agree for him to adopt me if it meant she wasn’t on my birth certificate, even if she wasn’t really in the picture.

I never realized adoption would be an option for me, until one day I heard of legal adoption for adults. When I looked into the process, I realized that it would be relatively simple. In California, all I had to do was agree to be adopted, and he had to agree to adopt me.

I can’t speak for every state, but adult adoption in California is easy. The most difficult part was finding the right forms, and the clerk we filed the paperwork with was pretty unhelpful. We paid a filing fee, which I think was less than $50.

We received a court date, which was less than two weeks from the date we filed. All adoptions in Ventura County are apparently handled by the juvenile courts, so we showed up at court and waited with a bunch of other families. We saw families go in and out of the courtroom, many with balloons and stuffed animals and lines of family members.

I felt like the only one there without a big family, without a big celebration. It was amazing to see families walk in nervous and questioning and then leave exhilarated and excited. I was also the only adult being adopted that day, so the judge saved me for last.

When I walked into the courtroom, the judge was not sitting in the big chair where you typically expect to see the judge sitting. Instead, he was sitting at a small table in the middle of the room. Stuffed animals lined the courtroom, and it became clear right away that the judge loved the days where his role was to approve adoptions and create new families. I had written this long explanation regarding why I wanted to be adopted on the filed paperwork, but the judge only asked me one question. And of course, I wanted to be adopted.

That was it.

Most of the benefits of adult adoption are emotional. I like knowing that my dad is my dad, and nobody can tell me otherwise. It just cements the bond we already had.

Knowing that my dad is my only legal parent also brings me a lot of peace. If something happens to me, I trust him to make legal decisions should I become incapacitated or incapable of making them for myself. He is the only parent I would trust to know and carry out my wishes.

Honestly, adoption didn’t impact my relationships much. My mother and father hadn’t been major fixtures in my life, and their behaviors had been inconsistent and hurtful throughout my childhood. Their behaviors caused me a lot of pain and even some trauma. So I really feel like there wasn’t much to lose.

Adult adoption is worth your consideration. Families are complex, and they consist of the people you choose to fill certain roles. You can have a bad childhood and develop health, happy relationships with mother and father figures later. Your family is up to you, and that’s one of the most important things I realized when I became an adult.

Just a West Coast girl passionate about my hungry guys.

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