Adoption is a legal procedure by which an adult is legally recognized as the parent of someone who is not his or her biological child. Adoption formally establishes a parent-child relationship with all rights and obligations, including family maintenance obligations, inheritance rights, and custody.

All adoptions, whether through an agency or done in private, must be approved by a court. Adoptive parents must seek court approval and participate in an adoption hearing. In addition, prior to any hearing, anyone who needs to give consent to adoption must receive notice. This includes any biological parents, adoption agencies, the legal representative of the child (if the court assigned one), and the child, if he or she is old enough.

If the court decides that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, the judge will issue an order of approval and conclusion to the adoption. This order, usually called a final adoption decree, legalizes the new parent-child relationship, and changes the child’s name to the name that the adoptive parents have chosen.