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In a legal sense, adoption is an act by which a person, with the cooperation of the public authority, selects for his child one who does not belong to him. In Roman law adrogatio was the name given to the adoption of one already of full age ( sui juris ); datio in adoptionem , when one was given in adoption by one having control or power over him. The adoption was full ( plena ) if the adopting father was a relative in an ascending scale of the one adopted; less full ( minus plena ) if there was no such natural tie. Perfect adoption placed the adopted under the control of the adopter, whose name was taken, and the adopted was made necessary heir. The adoption was less perfect which constituted the adopted necessary heir, in case the adopter should die without a will. The rule was that a man, not a woman, could adopt; that the adopter should be at least 18 years older than the adopted; that the adopter should be of full age, and older than 25 years. In Athens the power of adoption was allowed to all citizens of sound mind. Adoption was very frequent among the Greeks and Romans, and the custom was very strictly regulated in their laws.
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The Church made its own the Roman law of adoption, with its legal consequences. Pope Nicholas I (858-867) spoke of this law as venerable, when inculcating its observance upon the Bulgarians. Hence adoption, under the title cognatio legalis , or "legal relationship ", was recognized by the Church as a diriment impediment of marriage. This legal relationship sprang from its resemblance to the natural relationship (and made a bar to marriage):
- civil paternity between the adopter and the adopted, and the latter's legitimate natural children, even after the dissolution of the adoption;
- civil brotherhood between the adopted and the legitimate natural children of the adopter, until the adoption was dissolved, or the natural children were placed under their own control ( sui juris );
- affinity arising from the tie of adoption between the adopted and the adopter's wife, and between the adopter and the adopted's wife. This was not removed by the dissolution of the adoption.
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