Family

Elf: A Christmas Tale About Adoptions

As Christmas draws closer, it is easy for people to come across seasonal forms of entertainment. Christmas-themed music takes over the radio to foster the holiday spirit while films and TV shows about classic Christmas stories and themes are replayed to promote Christmas cheer.

Among the popular films that get replayed by people and their families is the family comedy titled Elf, directed by the reputable Jon Favreau. Originally released in 2003, Elf big Hollywood names, including Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, and Bob Newhart.

Like many other Christmas narratives, Elf conveys a wholesome message about the strength and importance of family relationships, and the value of spending time with family members—even if you hardly know them.

In addition to its strong Christmas themes, Elf can also teach people about adoptions—including the little-known issue of adult adoptions.

The Story of Elf

This film is a lighthearted comedy boasting a lot of humor while not being afraid to turn the dial up on sentimentality to help land its bigger messages with the audience. The premises of Elf involves a baby at an orphanage who finds his way into Santa Claus’s bag of Christmas present during one of jolly saint’s gift deliveries.

As a result, Santa unwittingly returns to his factory in the North Pole with the stowaway infant. The magic elves at Santa’s workshop discover the orphan and instantly take a liking to him, naming him “Buddy” based on the label of his diaper.

Papa Elf—played by veteran comedic actor, Bob Newhart—adopts Buddy and immerses him in the magical life and culture of the elves and Santa Clause. However, Buddy’s humanity soon distinguishes him from the other elves as he starts towering over the entire elf population.

Having lived with the elves well into his early-to-mid thirties, the age and size of Buddy—played by comedy star, Will Farrell—can no longer be ignored. Papa Elf decides to tell Buddy about who he is and where he came from. Buddy discovers that his mother gave him up for adoption when he was a baby and subsequently passed away. However, Buddy learns that his father, Walter—played by James Caan—is still alive in New York but is on Santa’s “naughty list” for Christmas, due to his cold and callous character.

Buddy decides to take a magical journey to New York from the North Pole to meet his father and help him get off of Santa’s naughty list.

Buddy meets his father Walter, who works for a major publisher regarding children’s books. Although he initially thought that Buddy was mentally ill and didn’t believe his claims, Walter begins to slowly warm up to Buddy.

Walter takes Buddy to a doctor who runs a DNA test confirming that Walter is in fact buddy’s genetic father.

From there, the film takes the audience on a ride of emotional ups and downs as Walter helps Buddy overcome his sad feelings stemming from not fitting in to Manhattan culture. At the same time—and somewhat unwittingly—Buddy teaches Walter about what it means to be a loving parent and the value of stepping away from work for quality time with family.

The Narrative and Legal Themes of Adoption in Elf

A significant part of Buddy’s character involves his background as an orphan. For many people, having a child is considered to be a gift that benefits parents and children alike. This is symbolized by Buddy’s discovery in Santa’s bag of presents.

In family law, children are also considered like precious gifts to society. That is why issues affecting the care and custody of a minor child focus on the child’s best interest. Additionally, the strong connection between parent and child, as demonstrated in Elf, is something that cannot be severed easily.

The act of adopting another child involves people taking them into their family and caring for them. The adoption process establishes a parent-child relationship between prospective adoptive parents and the child adoptee. However, adopting a minor child requires the child’s living parents to consent to the adoption. This is because adoption terminates the child-parent relationship between the adopted child and their birth parents.

Here, when Buddy was adopted by Santa’s elves, he came from an orphanage. Many adoptions involve parents placing their children with a licensed adoption agency for placement—also known as agency adoptions. This implies that Buddy’s mother consented to placing Buddy up for adoption, while Walter was unaware of Buddy’s existence.

However, Walter eventually discovers the true nature of his relationship with Buddy after getting a DNA test.

States who’ve adopted the provisions of the Uniform Parentage Act recognize DNA testing as a significant method for establishing parental rights between a child and their birth father. Many states, including California, allow a child or birth parent to determine parentage based on a DNA test indicating a 99% genetic match between a child and their parents. Establishing parentage allows minor children to receive child support from their previously unknown parents.

Here, a DNA test confirmed the genetic link between Walter and Buddy. However, Buddy was already an adult at the time. As a result, many rights and responsibilities between Walter and Buddy no longer exist. This is because certain parental duties automatically terminate when a child turns 18, as the law deems them old enough to handle their own affairs and take care of themselves.

At the end of Elf¸ Buddy and Walter shared a significant experience where they learned about the importance of family. As a result, it appeared that the two became very close. But, is it too late for Walter to adopt Buddy given his age and the fact that Papa Elf already adopted him?

If Walter wanted to, he could legally affirm the relationship he rekindled with Buddy by petitioning for an adult adoption. Unlike child adoptions, adult adoptions are not concerned about the legal child-parent relationship. In fact, parental consent is not a requirement for Walter to adopt Buddy as an adult. In some states, like California, the law does not require prospective adoptive parents to notify the adult adoptee’s parents. Therefore, Walter can adopt Buddy if he wanted to.

Although the creation of a legal parent-child relationship is not the focus of adult adoptions, people still seek to adopt another adult to signify the relationship between them. Furthermore, adoption allows adopted parents and children to automatically inherit from each other’s estates in the absence of a valid will.

In the end, Elf is a great story that conveys important messages about family that are on point with the themes of Christmas. These themes are also signified in the idea of adoption, showing children that there can be a place for them to belong.

Call Moshtael Family Law for Answers to Your Legal Questions and Concerns

At Moshtael Family Law, we are committed to guiding you through challenging legal issues regarding California family law, including matters of adoption. Families throughout Orange County and Southern California have come to count on us to protect their legal interests.

Please call Moshtael Family Law at (714) 909-2561 or contact our office online to arrange for an initial case evaluation about your legal rights and options today.

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