There’s something inherently nerve-racking about going to court. There is always anticipation, a little nervousness, some mixed emotions, and a few nice outfits dotted about. Finalization Day is no exception! It is, however, something to respect more than fear. It’s a day of uniting, of transitioning, and of closure all at once.
So what should you expect?
It’s the day of the Decree of Adoption, or the document signed by the judge to finalize your new family. Formally creating the parent-child relationship between the Adoptive Parents and the adopted child, it unites the party as though the child were born as the legal child of his/her Adoptive Parents.
Additionally, however, Finalization Day means more than a signature. In the case of open adoption, it is more than the bonding of Adoptive Parents and child, but Birth Parents as well. And depending on your state’s regulations, you may be allowed to invite your family and friends to be present in the courtroom on your big day, bringing together even more eyes and hearts to witness and encourage what is often called “Gotcha Day.” It’s as if everyone has got each other – it’s a uniting that feels just as big as it actually is.
Maya Brown-Zimmerman, who finalized her daughter’s adoption in October of 2015 writes, “I also felt sadness, both for my daughter and her birth family. No matter how you slice it, adoption comes from loss, and finalization day is a reminder of that.” She goes on to say, however, that it was truly the day that they began to belong to their daughter.
You will love your child before and after Finalization Day but try as you may, you cannot belittle the significance of the very day itself. It’s one day to hold an entire step of your transition. Less than a day! It’s a few hours or a multitude of minutes maybe. It’s a signature. It’s seeing preparation after preparation as they come to a close. It’s being able to walk out of the courtroom surrounded by your family – your legal family.
Without a doubt it’s all important: the feelings, the family, the friends. It’s a day that symbolizes a shift, but it is also called Finalization Day for a reason. There’s not a lot that’s romantic about a courtroom and a judge and paperwork just like there is nothing inherently magical about a birthing room in a hospital, but there’s love in those places and things and that’s what you need to remember matters most.
Finalization Day is final. It’s a final commitment and a first celebration all at once. Truly, “Gotcha Day” only takes place in the courtroom in part. It might be more technical than tender but it’s a good and necessary step and before you know it you, and your child, will be home free!