WEST OLIVE, MICH. - Families across the state are celebrating what's known as the "happiest day" in court.
Instead of criminal cases or custody battles, this Tuesday, Nov. 22, Adoption Day was the main focus. For some families, it's a big payoff just before the holidays and after years of waiting.
Some court cases involving parents and children can end bitterly, but it was not like that today -- instead, there was a sense of sweetness, like the half-eaten cookie that 6-year-old Nathan had in court.
"Do we have pretty good cookies here?" the judge asked Nathan. "I'm glad you like those cookies."
Nathan's new official family has a full heart.
"Joyful, feeling very blessed," says Leah Apley, Nathan's mother.
"He seems to bring a smile to everybody," says Dave Apley, Nathan's father.
Lea and Dave Apley began looking to adopt six years ago. hey say Nathan's adoption took more than two years.
On Tuesday, the Apley's celebrated their long journey with eight other families on Adoption Day.
"A lot of waiting," said Leah Apley, tearfully.
"A lot of waiting, we've been waiting for a while and just finally finalizing everything," Dave Apley said.
They brought Nathan home from the Philippines last year.
"The Philippines has its own guidelines," Dave Apley said.
It's the only international adoption in Ottawa County court so far this year.
"We were actually looking to domestic when we first started out, but that door closed and another door opened and it just happened to be in the Philippines," Leah Apley said.
Now, Nathan's officially their son just in time for the holidays.
"Just completion that we're a family, although feel like he always was part of our family, but it just makes it official," Leah Apley said.
It's a reason for families to be thankful and merry in the season of giving.
"This is the happiest day at the court," says Heather Blodgett, assistant director of Ottawa County Juvenile Court.
"I'm hoping eventually when I'm done if I get over there, there might be one (cookie) left for me," the judge said.
Ottawa County court workers say Nathan was the one international" adoption out of 113 adoptions filed this year.
(© 2016 WZZM)