Guess Who Is Legally a Member of Our Family?


When adopting children from other countries, be prepared for the unfamiliar ... including unfamiliar court systems and sometimes unhelpful court clerks.

No, it's not Sam. I wish! We're moving through his process at a slow pace, praying it will pick up speed soon.

As we announced our plans to adopt Sam, few people knew our finalization process for our Ugandan three wasn't complete. When we arrived in the US about eighteen months ago, the law didn't recognize us as mom and dad. Unlike Zoe's process in Taiwan which legally adopted her there, our process in Uganda ended with legal guardianship. Since then, we've been filing finalization documents in North Carolina courts.

And refiling when the clerk asked us to make some changes.

And then refiling again, after those changes were accepted but then the clerk asked for some other revision.

And then the same thing again. And again. And again.

For the past year and then some.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

We haven't publicly shared that our Ugandan three weren't legally Dingles yet, because we didn't want anyone to view them as less than full members of our family. In every way other than law, we were already Mom and Dad, and they were already Dingles.

Except we weren't and they weren't.

The official class rolls haven't listed the kids as Dingles, because public schools require legal names to be used. When I complete forms at the doctor and elsewhere, I've had to check "legal guardian" instead of "parent." To have them listed as Dingles in the yearbook, I had to ask special permission.

I have no idea why the clerk of court with our papers was choosing to be such a pain. We tried to win her over with kindness, but about a month ago, we were ready to begin contacting elected representatives to seek help. In a last ditch effort before doing so, I called the clerk's office a couple weeks ago. I got voicemail and left teary message, not planning to cry but not able to hold back my emotions. The return phone call a few days later was an answered prayer, letting me know that staff changes meant our documents ended up on a new clerk's desk, this time a clerk who wanted to be a help instead of a hindrance. I was hopeful but still skeptical when she said everything was in order.

But then the papers arrived last week.


They're ours.

To quote directly from the decrees,
That from the date of the entry of this Decree herein, the said minor is declared adopted for life by the petitioner(s) and that said child shall henceforth be known by the name...

Legally, each of our Ugandan-American children has four names now: the first name each was born with, a middle name we chose, the last name of their first family, and the last name of our family. Legally I am finally their mother. Legally, the reality we've been living since late 2013 is now fully true.

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