Family of Choice

Mr. Maclay: This is insane. You people have no right to interfere with Tara's affairs. We are her blood kin! Who the hell are you?
Buffy: We're family.

Often in fiction, a character who starts out Conveniently an Orphan will pick up extremely loyal companions along the way. Sometimes, these relationships are forged through the fire of conflict, but with Families of Choice, it's a bit different. Members of a Chosen Family mourn the lack of family in their lives and decide to build one of their own out of people they care for and who care for them in turn.

As in Real Life, this is most common when something has happened to these characters to isolate them from blood relatives—perhaps they have no family to return to. Maybe they have a supernatural secret they can’t share with their closest friends. They might just have a bad home life in general and decided to leave. To fill the vacant roles in their lives, some characters build their own families with people they choose to care about.

Some common examples of Family of Choice include an adult meeting the future heroes as children and deciding to be the Parental Substitute that they need, children who grow up together without family of their own and claim each other as brother and sister, or an adult friend of a single parent that takes it upon himself to always be there for the main characters and thus becomes an Honorary Uncle. Adopted and blended families, however, are not examples of this trope because they do have legal status as family.

Examples of this trope must describe not just the nature of the relationship but how, when, or why the characters came to feel this way about each other. Remember, if they came to think of each other as True Companions because the plot has brought them closer together, its more likely to be Fire-Forged Friends, Band of Brothers, or just True Companions than this trope.

Subtrope of True Companions. Compare/contrast with No Blood Ties and Thicker Than Water. Hint: If an example includes the words "in the end" then it's more likely Fire-Forged Friends than this trope (which is about characters forming a family in the beginning, before all that plot stuff happens).

See also Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't, which involves stressful family relationships which arise because a character can't choose who they are actually related to by blood. In complex cases, however, the two tropes can overlap; if things get difficult with a Family of Choice, the character can't just dump them, because they're now "family" — so that relationship becomes stressful.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto: Naruto, whose entire family is dead, has formed close bonds with his "grandfather" the Third Hokage, his "father" Iruka, his "older brother" Sasuke, his "other father" Kakashi, and, once he gets over his one-sided shallow crush on her, his "older sister" Sakura. That said, the entire Leaf Village seems to regard itself as one giant extended family anyway, and their "Will of Fire" philosophy strongly emphasizes this.
  • The Yagami family in the Lyrical Nanoha franchise are a borderline example, since the Knights are dependent on Hayate Yagami's mana output. The Huckebein and Grendel families in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force are more obvious, since both are groups of unrelated Eclipse infectees who banded together around Curren Huckebein and Kurt Grendel's leadership, respectively.
  • The Members of the Zodiac (plus Tohru) in Fruits Basket. Most of them come from broken homes (at best), and due to their condition, it's a lot easier to forge bonds with each other, anyway. Tohru leaves her remaining family to stay with the Sohmas, and consequently becomes the glue that holds them together.
  • In Baccano!, Firo, Ennis and Czeslaw - three immortals who've faced a pretty rough life - eventually settle into this arrangement, right down to sharing the same apartment.
  • In Toradora!, Ryuuji and his mother Yasuko become Taiga's family, and she eats dinner with them every day. When Taiga's father, who abandoned her, comes back into her life, Yasuko doesn't trust him and doesn't want Taiga to leave as she is a part of their family.
  • In One Piece, we have the Whitebeard Pirates. The captain looks upon each of the members as his sons, and all of them in turn looks to him as his father. It's explicitly stated that many of the members are vagabonds and strays who were brought together by Whitebeard's kindness, and all consider each other family. As his life flashes right before his eyes, a dying Whitebeard expresses that this is all he ever really wanted.
    • This is arguably one of the most dominant themes of the series. Oda confirmed this, stating that one of the major themes of One Piece is that heredity doesn't matter and family is who you choose. Several members of the Straw Hats were not raised by blood relatives and had surrogate families, and this along with Sins of Our Fathers is one of the overarching themes of the Marineford Arc.
  • Despite Yuu's protests, the orphans at the Hyakuya Orphanage in Seraph of the End feel this way about the group, due to poor relationships with their blood family. Eventually, Yuu comes to accept this as well. And then they're all slaughtered.
  • In Bleach people rarely are able to reunite with their loved ones after death, since souls are usually sent to different parts of Soul Society, even if they died together. Because of this people with no blood ties tend to form family-like units to support each other.
  • The guild members of Fairy Tail easily qualify, especially as Makarov refers to all members as his children, and he all-but namedrops this Trope in the denouement of a rather heavy story arc.
    Makarov: Lucy. Though we may not be able to share our feelings of happiness or sadness entirely, we do share them to some extent. That's what happens in a Guild. One person's happiness becomes everyone's happiness. One person's anger becomes everyone's anger. And one person's tears become everyone's tears. There's no reason for you to feel guilty, so don't cry - you should already know how much everyone here cares about you. Hold your head high, my dear, because you are a proud member of the Fairy Tail family.
  • In Sailor Moon, lesbian couple Haruka and Michiru, hermit Setsuna, and orphan Hotaru formed a family. Haruka serves as a father of sorts, while Setsuna and Michiru were the mothers of young Hotaru.

    Comic Books 
  • The Holo Brothers are three humanoid aliens of three different species. They were all orphaned too young to remember their real family, and grew up together in an orphanage. They refer to each other as brothers and act in every way as if they actually were.
  • This is explicitly the relationship between Cutter and Skywise in the ElfQuest stories. They become "brothers in all but blood" when young,even going as far as to share "soul names", something normally reserved for immediate family or reproductive mates. Their relationship is somewhat strained during The Palace War and when Skywise wants to stay in the Palace after, but is never broken while they both live.
  • In Gotham City Garage, Kara Gordon misses her sister left back in the city tyrannically ruled by Lex Luthor's. Natasha Irons tells she understands but the biker gang is now her family.
    Natasha Irons: I know that feeling. The loved one you can't shake. It's hard. But you gotta remember... You got new family now. Them you left behind are just cogs in Luthor's machine. Rule number one at the Garage: We ride for our sisters.
  • Teen Titans: This is how the Titans are described as seeing each other in the comic books. They support each other in all the good ways of a family, but they're also a family in all the worst ways with all the conflicts, you'd usually suspect from living together like one. They do have some disagreements, but it always leads into more character depth. This is adapted very well in the Teen Titans original animated series where their family-like relationships are used to look deeper into each of the character's backstories and character flaws.
  • The Runaways act very much like a family, which should not be surprising given that most of them have known each other since they were little kids.
  • In Death Vigil, when Allistor turns on the Vigil because he can relate to and understand the reasoning behind Wulf's Face–Heel Turn, he demands Mia leave with him. Mia, in outrage, refuses and tells him she's staying with her family, and chooses to stand with the Vigil over her father.
  • In the Pre-Flashpoint universe, Lana Lang took care of the young Supergirl as she was going through a very tough time in her own book. Later Kara would tell Lana became family to her. In the DC Rebirth continuity, Lana states Superman is her family in spirit although they aren't blood relatives.

    Fan Works 
  • In Child of the Storm, the Avengers are most definitely this, being a close-knit, if dysfunctional, bunch of outsiders, oddities, and orphans who would all die for each other. Even after years together, however, they aren't without their issues: Clint's still a tiny bit twitchy around Loki, at times, and they do have arguments, sometimes quite serious ones. Those arguments, however, are usually resolved fairly quickly and help bind them tighter.
    • The Marauders, and the Order of the Phoenix as a whole, were this, with Fury describing Lily Potter as closest thing he ever had to a sister.
    • Sif and the Warriors Three also qualify, with Sif being the faintly exasperated Team Mom to the often ridiculous Warriors Three, who often bicker and squabble over inconsequential things. However, one of the very, very few times they are completely serious is when Sif is upset, and they are all clearly devoted to each other.
    • Harry seems to gathering one around him, in the form of his True Companions.
  • In this series of Emergency! fics, John Gage lost his parents as a young boy. The relatives who raised him badly abused him. His aunt is the only blood family he's close to. But his work partner, Roy, and Roy's wife Joanne become the people he thinks of as his family, even if he has a hard time just understanding and accepting love. The relationship often easily shifts between brothers or brother/sister and parents/child. Joanne often mothers him like her third child, and even Roy's son recognizes that when someone tries to hurt John, Roy gets like a Papa Bear. John's aunt also comes to see how the Desotos have become her nephew's surrogate family and helped him in ways she never managed.
  • The Bridge gives an example of one character already having done this teaching another. Sunset Shimmer, having long since fled Equestria for the human realm, regards her human friends as her new family. Upon finding a disoriented young albino woman in a fairgrounds, Sunset learns from her that she has no name and deduces she ran away from a abusive home. Christening her new friend "Irys", Sunset details her this trope, about how if she wanted a family, all she need do is start building from what is friendly to her, blood relation be damned. What Sunset didn't know was Irys was a kaiju in human form, an unnamed hyper gyaos who had just lost her entire flock. The rest of the gyaos flock wasn't sentient, being cannibalistic monstrosities, but it was all she had so they had a love-hate relationship. Taking Sunset Shimmer's words into practice, Irys formed a new flock with her teammates after being included into the Villainous Friendship trio of Monster X, Gigan, and Megalon. In later chapters, we see Irys openly refer to her new three friends as her "flock/family".
  • In Shadow And Rose, Elissa 's entire family is dead, and she forges a new one out of the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits she recruits to help stop the Blight. Leliana invokes it when giving a Rousing Speech, pointing out that they are the only family their leader has anymore and they can't let her down.
  • A Marriage Of Convenience: By the end of this Frozen fanfic, Hans considers Elsa, Anna and Kristoff as a surrogate family to compensate for his unhappy childhood, as his biological father and brothers (sans Lars, the only brother whom Hans could feel close) were abusive and neglectful towards him.
  • The old Mustang unit from Fullmetal Alchemist, along with the Elrics and the rest of the "allies," are well and truly forged into one of these during the Elemental Chess Trilogy.
  • This is how Lydia regards the Maitlands and Betelgeuse in Say It Thrice. By the end of the story, she has expanded this to include the Fenton family, with whom she is living; she's actually an emancipated minor at this point, but they treat her like a member of the family.
  • Advice and Trust: When Shinji feels that he has "tainted blood" due to the revelation that he comes from a family of apocalypse cultists, Asuka and Misato are quick to remind him who his real family is.
    Misato: Your family is right here, Shinji.
    • Shinji had brought it up earlier with Asuka during their first real date after they were fired, but Asuka said that using the term family probably wouldn't be appropriate for the two of them when you consider what they get up to every night.
  • The younger Jinchuriki (Naruto, Gaara, Fu and Yugito) and Kurama form one in Blackkat's Reverse. They have all been abused and neglected by their villages and blood relations if they have them and they getting found (kidnapped) by Kurama for their own safety has been the best for them. Kurama is a loving father figure who loves them for who they are and their fellow jinchuuriki are the siblings and friends, they always wanted.
  • A Brighter Dark: In stark contrast to her original counterpart, Corrin has absolutely no confusion over who she considers her 'real' family to be. As far as she's concerned, she's Nohrian and always has been. Her Hoshidan siblings may have had someone who looked like her as a little sister, but that little sister wasn't her anymore.
    • Put best here, while debating the issue with Azura.
    Corrin: Look little girl, I've seen enough blood to know that it all looks the same. It's all red, and you only ever see it when things have gone horribly wrong for the person holding it. It keeps the body pumping and makes a big mess when it gets spilled, and beyond that I don't see any reason to attach any sentimental value to it. True family is the people who have been there with you through thick and thin. They're the ones who make you feel warm when the world seems cold; the people you grow with, train with, eat with, you fight with and laugh with over the stupidest little things. That's family to me.
  • In My Name Is Yasha Romanov, Clint see right through Natasha's protest that Yasha isn't her son.
    "Yeah I know; he's just someone's kid you were paid to look after. But he's still your boy."
  • This is a constant theme of The RWBY Loops, to the point where the celebratory hundred-chapter badge has the words "Te Potest Elige Cognatione Tua" on it—latin for "You Can Choose Your Family." Granted, it's rare that the loopers of Remnant abandon their baseline family—it's just that they incredibly commonly adopt new family members.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Hawaiian term for this is 'ohana. Just ask anyone who has seen the Disney film Lilo & Stitch, with its "family" composed of two sisters, a reformed all-destroying monster (plus, in the franchise's later TV series, his over six hundred twenty "cousins"), the (mostly) reformed creator of said monster(s), and an incompetent bureaucrat.
    "'Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten."
  • The Penguins of Madagascar. A brief flashback even shows a page from Private's journal, with a crayon drawing of the four of them labeled "FAMILY".
  • In Ice Age this is what happened to the misfit stragglers - Manny/Diego/Sid - in the first movie. Over the course of the original film, they gradually form tight-knit bonds and begin to think of each other as a "herd".
  • Storks: Tulip and Junior bond acting as parents for Diamond Destiny. Tulip even chooses to first make sure Diamond Destiny was correctly delivered before seeing her own biological family for the first time.
  • Fagan's canine posse in Oliver & Company survive aboard a derelict boat as a band of scroungers and thieves. They even extend their circle to include the kitten Oliver. When Oliver becomes stranded in the limousine, Tito insists upon a rescue: "We got to do something, man. He's family. He's blood." Since the dogs are completely different breeds and Oliver, the he in question, is a cat, Tito is clearly speaking about the strength of their bonds rather than any literal blood relationship.
  • In The Boss Baby, neither Tim nor the Boss Baby really like each other at first and are only "family" because the Boss Baby was adopted by Tim's parents, apparently a direct manipulation so that the Boss Baby could investigate Puppy Co., for which Tim's parents both work. In the end, Tim is miserable at the Boss Baby, who'd he'd grown to appreciate, being gone, and the Boss Baby is moved by Tim's letter and decides to give up his cushy corporate boss life and become a real baby and part of Tim's family.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film Leave It on the Floor a group of gay young men form a replacement family around the head Drag Queen (whom they call Mama and who refers to them as her children) of their drag competition team.
  • The Blues Brothers met each other while they were both in an orphanage, and used a string from Elmore James' guitar to become Blood Brothers.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • James McAvoy repeatedly brings up in interviews that Professor X creates a surrogate family for himself to compensate for his unhappy childhood (he was a Lonely Rich Kid who believed that he was afflicted by a severe psychiatric disorder after his psychic abilities first manifested, his mother was emotionally cold, and his biological father must have died when he was young because he once had a stepfather). His students are either runaways, orphans, or even if they do have a family, their human relatives have tremendous difficulty coping with the knowledge that one of their own is a mutant, so those in the latter category still feel isolated and anxious because of their powers. Charles ingratiates himself into these youngsters' lives by treating them kindly like they are his own children, and his school becomes a second (or only) home to them. Because his parenting style is a mix of Team Dad and Team Mom, he's an ideal father figure with the best of both worlds in terms of what's stereotyped as paternal and maternal attributes. Most of his students like him because these qualities make him a Cool Teacher, and some grow to love him and join the X-Men. Xavier is especially close to his protégés on the team and dotes on them, and they offer Undying Loyalty to him in return.
    • The Wolverine: At the end of the movie, Mariko adopts Yukio as her sister, "her only family," as the rest of the Yashida family have been killed off.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: Ironically, Quicksilver chooses to be mentored by Charles instead of beginning a relationship with his estranged father Erik. Although Peter doesn't know either man well at this point, his decision strongly suggests that he feels a greater affinity towards Xavier (they are Foils for each other, and they share several personality traits in common), who did briefly display his paternal side towards Maximoff before they had parted ways in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
  • Pride (2014) has this working several ways: the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group serve as a surrogate family for each other, as most of them, being gay in 1984 Thatcherite Britain have bad relationships (Steph) no relationship (Gethin) or are closeted (Joe) from their blood relatives. In particular, Joe and Steph develop a close brother/sisterly relationship over the course of the film. Additionally, the members of the Miner's Union in the Welsh town of Onllwyn who the LGSM sponsor during the mine strike find themselves (after some initial culture shock) to be taking on a parental role towards the LGSM. This leads in part to the Welsh Gethin being able to work up the courage to reconnect with his own actual mother. There's also Cliff and Hefina, who are not related by blood or marriage at all, but who have been obviously close for twenty years at least. Hefina, for example, apparently has known that Cliff was gay since 1968.
  • This is played up in the later installments of the Lethal Weapon series. In the third film, Riggs talks Murtaugh off his Heroic B.S.O.D. from killing one of Darryl's friends by reminding Murtaugh he was the only friend he had, and he considered the Murtaughs his family. The fourth film ends with a photo op featuring Riggs, Lorna Cole (whom he just married) and their newborn baby; the Murtaughs, with Butters, and Butters' and Rianne's newborn baby; and Leo Getz. In unison, they tell the photographer that they're all family.
  • The Hunger Games: Peeta never seems particularly close with his biological family, but forms a very close bond with Katniss and Haymitch.
  • Implied at the end of Ghostbusters (2016) when Jillian, previously established as a cocky, devil-may-care gadfly, unexpectedly delivers a heartfelt tribute to her newfound friends in which, on the verge of tears, she admits that she'd never truly felt part of a family before she knew them.
  • One of the major themes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with Peter Quill finding strength in his "family," the Guardians especially his adoptive father Yondu, to defeat his biological father, Ego. Explicitly stated by Drax:
    Nebula: You are not friends. All you do is yell at each other.
    Drax: No, we're family. We leave no one behind.

    Literature 
  • The four protagonists of Circle of Magic are rescued from similarly isolated backgrounds and brought to a school of magic where they immediately form a strong bond. Especially Sandry and Daja, since Sandry, responding to an act of cruel injustice by a third girl, takes an "us against the world" approach before she even knows Daja's name. The family can also be seen to include the children's teachers, especially Lark and Rosethorn who live with the children as well as teach them. By the end of their stories, the children even refer to each other as siblings. Other people often react with incredulity when they're introduced as siblings, since the four clearly come from utterly different racial and social backgrounds, but they often don't give the incredibly powerful mages too much of a fuss about it.
  • In Dragon Bones there is one a bit bizarre example; Ward adopts the house ghost Oreg, whom he inherits as a slave (A Wizard Did It, Ward can't change it), as a kind of new brother. Ward's real brother Tosten is a bit jealous, but comes to terms with it. Oreg, on the other hand, has long acted like a big brother towards Ward's Cute Mute younger sister, Ciarra. While only Oreg is actually an orphan, the other three are half-orphans with only their mentally absent mother left.
  • Burke of the crime novels of Andrew Vachss has no family by blood or law but has such close bonds with the people he’s chosen for his family that he would kill anyone who hurt them.
  • At the end of the first book in the Star Ka'at series, two unrelated orphan human children are adopted and referred to as "kin" by intelligent, sapient space-cats.
  • The central family in Weetzie Bat is mostly this. Weetzie spends little time with her mother, and while she loves her father he lives across the country. Dirk's parents and grandmother are dead, Duck and My Secret Agent Lover Man don't even mention their families in the first book, and the only biological or legally bound family members are Cherokee and Witch Baby. Cherokee, it's not known who her biological father is, and Witch Baby is only related to My Secret Agent Lover Man. Yet they all live together in one two bedroom house.
  • In Harry Potter the Weasley family seems to choose Harry pretty much from the moment they meet him; aside from him being Ron's best friend, it probably has to do with his Orphan's Ordeal being well-known among wizards. Mrs. Weasley sends him a homemade sweater (like she does to all her children) after only meeting him once, and from the second book on he spends a large chunk of each summer with them. In the fourth book the school is smart enough to invite them as Harry's family for the Third Task, and Mrs. Weasley outright calls Harry her son early in the fifth. (He officially joins the family sometime after the series when he marries Ginny.)
  • Haymitch, Peeta and Katniss in The Hunger Games. Katniss still has her mother and sister until the third book where her sister dies and her mother moves away and Peeta's family is still around until the end of book two but all of Haymitch's loved ones were killed by the Capitol after the second Quarter Quell. The three of them become very close and at one point in the second book Katniss flat-out calls Haymitch a family member. For Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta seem to be the children he never had. By the end of the series Katniss and Peeta are married with two small children and Haymitch presumably fills the role of grandfather, since both Katniss and Peeta's fathers are dead.
  • Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves has a prime example of this trope. The main characters are a group of gay men, most of them shunned by their families because of their sexuality, and they refer to their close-knit group as "the family".
  • In Pact, Blake Thorburn ran away from his family at the age of seventeen, as they tore one another to metaphorical pieces over an inheritance worth millions, ending up homeless and along until he met his friends Alexis and Joel, who he considers to be better family than his blood family ever were, since they lifted him out of the hole he was in and helped him to an extent that he credits them with saving his life. That said, his inability to detach from his real family leads to him inheriting his grandmother's house, and her various supernatural enemies, as he felt the need to go to her will-reading as closure.
  • Dashti and Saren in Book of a Thousand Days are this by the end, despite Saren's status as Gentry and Dashti's place as her maid. After leaving the Tower, they claim to be clan sisters and commoners for Saren's protection, and are the only family either has. In the end of the book, Saren legally declares Dashti her sister, as is her right as the last Lady of Titor's Garden. This is partly so Dashti won't be executed for claiming nobility
  • in Books of Bayern, Ani/Isi has this with the other workers. She was never close to her birth family, as her mother kept her apart from her siblings. When Ani/Isi tells stories about the love of mothers, she says that she imagines the mothers of the workers instead of her own.
  • In Garry Ryan's Detective Lane Mysteries, protagonist Lane and his life partner Arthur form one by taking in an outcast nephew and niece, while Lane's partner-on-the-force Harper does the same for his own nephew.
  • Tana French's The Likeness has this set up. After lonely 20-something Daniel March inherits a large estate, he moves in with his four intimate friends, Rafe Hyland, Abby Stone, Justin Mannering and Lexie Madison. The five, each lost in various ways, consider themselves a family and plan to grow old together, even deciding to share legal ownership of the estate, ensuring the permanence of their situation and rendering marriage, relationships and children out of the question. Unfortunately, Lexie betrays the other four when she plans to sell her share, which would cause them to lose their home to the developers planning to buy it, leading to her Accidental Murder at the hands of one of her friends.
  • Four out of the five main characters in The Mysterious Benedict Society are orphans, and the one who has parents is a runaway with a rocky familial relationship due to them abusing his photographic memory for financial gain. When they form into a group they quickly become like family to each other. Also, Mr. Benedict asks Constance if she would be willing to adopt him as her father. She tells him that she'll have to consider it, but is inclined to accept. She eventually does and gains two sisters in the process - it turns out that Mr. Benedict also adopted Rhonda Kazembie and Number Two, who by the time of the series are adults, though they too feel as if they adopted him.
  • Comes up in Atlas Shrugged when Cherryl apologizes for misjudging her sister-in-law Dagny and now hates the fact that they're linked by her abusive husband (Dagny's brother). Dagny assures her it's the fact that they value the same things, not Cherryl's marriage to Jim, that makes them sisters.
    Dagny: We're sisters, aren't we?
    Cherryl: No! Not through Jim!
    Dagny: No, through our own choice.

    Live Action TV 
  • On Full House, three girls are raised by their father, their maternal uncle Jesse, and their father's best friend Joey. The three men (and later, Jesse's wife and kids) all live in the house together. At first, it was practical, to help raise the girls, but the arrangement continued long after the girls had grown beyond needing that level of care because the bonds of family were so strong.
  • Supernatural:
    • Brothers Dean and Sam had a rough start to life, with their father raising them on the road after their mother was killed by a demon. Their father's obsession with the demon led him to make often unrealistic demands of the boys, but family friend Bobby did his best to let them be kids whenever Sam and Dean stayed with him. The brothers consider Bobby family and he tells Dean (in the Season 3 finale): "Family don't end with blood, boy." In the season seven episode "Death's Door", he says:
      Bobby: I adopted two boys, and they grew up great. They grew up heroes.
    • Since Castiel rebelled against Heaven to help the Winchesters, he's been more or less added to the group. He still considers the angels family, but has clearly chosen to stick with Dean and Sam and consistently prioritizes them over anyone else. Dean has referred to him as their brother.
  • Friends was described by one critic as a show about a bunch of young adults finding a replacement family for their own, dysfunctional ones. Lampshaded by a Guy of the Week of Phoebe's, whose minor flaw was his incessant psychoanalysis of the group. There are times where actions usually performed by a family member are taken over by the gang: Chandler walks Phoebe down the aisle, Joey officiates at her and Monica and Chandler's wedding, they all attend Rachel and Phoebe giving birth, everyone comes to Ross and Monica's grandmother's funeral, and they spend Thanksgiving together.
    • Makes complete sense when you look at their backgrounds: Phoebe's parents abandoned her while the woman she grew up believing to be her mother committed suicide, Rachel's father cut her off when she wouldn't marry the fiancé of his choosing, Joey's family disapproves of his acting career, Chandler's parents either ignore or humiliate him, and Monica is hurt by her parents' favouritism of Ross. To a lesser extent, Ross is also a little distant to his parents because of their favoritism, feeling like they have such high hopes for him, he can never live up to them. No wonder they found support in each other.
    • This even upgrades to legal family when Monica and Chandler get married, making Ross and Chandler Best Friends-in-Law, and Monica and Chandler later become aunt and uncle to Ross and Rachel's daughter. Chandler and Monica even have a room for Joey in their home.
      • The cast of Friends could be considered as a Real Life version, too.
    Courteney Cox: "They're like my family."
  • The main crew of Pushing Daisies: Olive and Chuck are like sisters, and when Chuck comments on Ned needing to reconnect with his family, he says that Chuck and Olive are his family. Emerson is a lot more reluctant to express affection for the others, but it's there.
  • Spaced; "They say the family of the 21st century is made up of friends, not relatives." Said to try to convince Marsha that she's the favorite auntie to brothers Tim and Mike, sister Daisy, and... weird cousin Brian. Although the general sentiment is ultimately proven true, the scene in which this line is delivered is actually a subversion; Tim is saying this after a series of revelations which have genuinely hurt Marsha's feelings, and she's not having it.
  • The Space Cases episode "It's My Birthday, Too (Yeah!)" has this as the theme. The cadets have to make family trees, but Radu is stymied by the fact that Andromedans were born in group hatcheries with no family ties while enslaved by the Spung. He first tries making up a pretend family, but when that gets exposed, he eventually decides that the cadets and teachers have become as good as family, with a little help from Thelma.
    Thelma: Why were you upset at your party?
    Radu: Because I lied and they all knew I lied. That's why. I just wanted to have a family. Even a pretend one was too much to ask for. You couldn't understand.
    Thelma: I couldn't? My understanding has always been that a family is not only those from whom you are born, but those to whom you belong. [beat] Did I screw up, too?
    Radu: No... no, not at all.
  • Dawson's Creek: Jack is taken in by Jen's grandmother when he needs a place to live, even though she barely knows him. She and Jen treat him like family for the rest of the series.
  • In Battlestar Galactica, Bill Adama mentioned a couple times that he regards Kara Thrace (Starbuck) as "family" (implied above and beyond any Band of Brothers comraderie within the Fleet), and seemed to have a soft spot for her under his tough leadership exterior. It's never really mentioned why though, other than they go back a way (but so does he with a few others in the fleet), and her being responsible for his son Zak's death (by not washing him out of flight training when he was failing, due to having relations with him) makes it even more perplexing.
    • One possible explanation is that he regards her as effectively being his daughter-in-law due to her relationship with Zak, and a belief that they would have married had Zak not died.
    • This attitude is more prevalent in the original series. Where Apollo and Starbuck treat each other like brothers so much that it's often easy to forget they aren't related by blood. And while it's not mentioned out loud, it's obvious that Adam thinks of Starbuck as another son.
  • Explicitly stated in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Tara's Abusive Parents try to take her home, but Buffy and her friends insist that they are Tara's family instead, as they actually care for her.
    • Giles was the closest thing any of the three main Scoobies had to a father as teenagers; this doesn't really become clear until later seasons, when we see just how distant all of their fathers are.
    • Also, although the Scoobies themselves were something more like Fire-Forged Friends for the first five seasons, the deaths of Joyce and then Buffy and Giles' absence knitted them together domestically as they banded up to take care of Dawn; Willow and Tara moved in to the Summers' house and made her morning pancakes, Spike became the friendly villainous babysitter, Buffy after she came back became the hard-working mother, and Xander was always there fixing the windows. Seasons 6-7 definitely portrayed them as a well-oiled family unit with a home base and designated roles.
  • Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves has a prime example of this trope. The main characters are a group of gay men, most of them shunned by their families because of their sexuality, and they refer to their close-knit group as "the family".
    Rasmus: Isn't Christmas supposed to be spent with family?
    Paul: Absolutely. But first you have to define family, don't you?
  • Due to her mom's drug addiction, Lindsay on Chicago P.D. was taken in by the Voights at age 15. Even as an adult, Lindsay considers Voight her surrogate dad, turning to him constantly. For this reason, Lindsay was understandably upset when the mother she hadn't spoken to in years insists to her that Voight is not her family and tries to reinsert herself back into her life. Lindsay responded by going to Voight later and telling him that she definitely thinks of him as her family.
  • On Community, the Study Group eventually becomes this to each other. Like the Friends entry above, several in the group come from dysfunctional families themselves or are children of divorced parents, and as such, throughout the series the entire group forms deep, family bonds to the point that the thought of losing the group completely freaks some of them (notably Jeff or Annie) out and they attempt subterfuge in a desperate ploy to keep the group together or remain a part of it. Interestingly, the Team Mom (Shirley) and closest thing they have to a father figure (Jeff) are one of the opposite-sex pairings with the least Ship Teasing.
  • Boardwalk Empire gives us Team New York—specifically Italian Charlie, and Jewish Meyer and Benny. Nucky's final downfall is largely a result of him viewing them only as business partners because of his own poor grasp of familial loyalty. When he kidnaps Benny, the youngest of the three, for the purpose of negotiating an end to the current gang war, he thinks it's a simple business action. Meyer and Charlie respond by kidnapping his nephew, Willie, and riding to Benny's rescue with a whole team of gunmen. When Willie believes that his kidnapping is business-related, Charlie clarifies with: "This is more of a...family matter."
  • The characters of Warehouse 13 are explicitly stated to have become a family over the course of the show. Artie is the grumpy 'father-like figure,' Pete and Myka are Like Brother and Sister ( at least, until the Relationship Upgrade in season 5), and Claudia is the little sister. When Steve joins the team in season 3, he slots easily into the family dynamic, and is especially close to Claudia.
  • In Sense8, Wolfgang's father is an abusive asshole, which his uncle conveniently ignored, and his cousin is an obnoxious dick. He only considers his best friend Felix as family.
    Wolfgang: "He's my brother. And not by something as accidental as blood. By something much stronger. By choice."
    • Also, Nomi rejects her transphobic mother and insists that her girlfriend Amanita is her family, and thus should be allowed by her hospital bedside.
  • On RuPaul's Drag Race, RuPaul cites this trope as something LGBT people often do in response to their blood families rejecting them after Roxxxy Andrews breaks down on the stage after recounting how her mother abandoned her.
  • The task force in Hawaii Five-0 clearly regard themselves as such (with Kono and Chin Ho being actual cousins), and if you so much as think about harming one of them or a member of their actual families, the others will come for you and will not stop.
  • This is a central theme of The Golden Girls, with Sophia acting as a surrogate mother to Blanche and Rose (despite Estelle Getty being the youngest of the four cast members). Explored in a number of episodes, including a season 7 episode when Rose is taken ill (after the ladies crash a class reunion and take the place of several no-shows):
    Sophia: Kirsten, you're just upset, we all are. But you have to know these two women love her like a sister. And I love your mother like she was my own.
    Kirsten: Yeah, well, you're forgetting one thing, though. I'm her daughter. You're not her family.
    Dorothy: Why does everybody keep saying that? We share our lives together.
    {Later, after Blanche says she would mortgage her house if necessary to pay for Rose's physical therapy.}
    Kirsten: I'm gonna go talk to the doctor about you. I think my mother needs to be with her family now. All of her family.

    Roleplay 
  • Making your own family is a recurring theme on Mahou MUSH, particularly in the Sailor Moon and Puella Magi Madoka Magica casts, which are both full of characters who are either orphaned or otherwise have difficult family situations. By the time the Dark Kingdom arc has ended, the two casts are firmly interconnected via several characters having unofficially adopted one another; Kyouko openly calls Kunzite her brother, and Makoto does the same for Mamoru.

    Theater 
  • In RENT the main characters, most of whom are isolated from their families and other friends, band together in the wake of Benny's Face–Heel Turn, just to try to get by in life. All but Joanne are desperately poor, half of them are HIV-positive and the relationships between the couples are rocky at the best of times, but they support each other and won't let any of the group go through it alone. Even Joanne, an Ivy League lawyer who was only there because she was dating Maureen, gradually joined the gang and stuck around after the couple's breakup.

    Video Games 
  • In Sly Cooper, main characters Sly, Bentley, and Murray met in an orphanage and became as thick as thieves (pun intended.)
  • The Black Ops series presents Frank Woods and Alex Mason, who -after having saved each others' lives multiple times- refer to and treat one another as brothers. This is evidenced in the sequel when Mason's son, David refers to Woods as "Uncle Woods/Uncle Frank", even when he's all grown up.
  • In Fire Emblem Awakening, this is a major theme as the protagonist wakes up without any memories but goes on to join a band of True Companions, with the possibility of even marrying and having kids. This is contrasted with their actual blood father who turned to be the leader of a cult to a Religion of Evil who wants to use them as a way of reincarnating their God of Evil.
  • Asher Forrester of Telltale's Game of Thrones was exiled to Essos years ago, losing his entire family in the process. He found family in his close friend and sellsword partner Beskha, who even refers to him as "little brother". It's made even more explicit if you choose to sacrifice Asher at the end of episode five.
    Asher: Sister... You're my family. As much as Rodrick. As much as any of them.
  • The Spartan-II and III Super Soldiers of Halo are all this, having been raised together since childhood. In Halo 5: Guardians, Spartan-II Blue Team is explicitly called family by Buck when Locke mentions that taking on the Master Chief means taking on all of them.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, this is how the members of the Companions view one another. They call each other "Shield-Brother" and "Shield-Sister," consider the Harbinger to be their mutual father figure, and at least a few of them care more for their guildmates than for their biological relatives.
  • While also fitting into the Fire-Forged Friends category, the main party from Tales of Vesperia fit this trope to a T. None of the main cast has any living relatives (barring Estelle's distant cousin, Prince Ioder) and as each member joins the group they all fall into various positions of a family, such as Yuri's Big Brother Mentor nature towards Karol or Raven's Team Dad tendencies. There's also this gem from the team's resident Tsundere mage:
    Rita: I don't have any family, so I don't... but... I kinda like, you know, how we are.
  • It partly depends on player choices, but the Warden, Hawke, and the Inquisitor can grow to view some if not all of their companions this way in the Dragon Age series. It's particularly pronounced for Hawke, who proceeds to lose their real family in one way or another through the course of the game.

     Web Original 
  • Vox Machina, the main party of Critical Role. Aside from Tiberius and Pike, everyone in the party has lost someone in their immediate family. Keyleth, Vex, Vax and Scanlan all have Missing Moms, Grog was exiled from his goliath tribe, and Percy's entire family is dead. But they do have a family, because they have Vox Machina - and Vax says as much, many times.
  • RWBY: This is the main point of contention between Qrow and his sister Raven. Raven views the Bandit Clan that adopted them as their real family, and left civilization to join them again. Qrow views the friends they met at Beacon Academy as their real family, not to mention Raven's own daughter, Yang.

    Western Animation 
  • The Freedom Fighters of the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon are clearly a tightly-knit group of friends, all of whom have lost their actual families and so turn to each other for that kind of support; Tails even considers Princess Sally his "Aunt", and she treats him very much like her own son at times. Likewise, Sonic and Tails have a very brotherly relationship.
  • The Young Justice episode "Home Front" finally reveals Artemis's Mysterious Past: that her parents are criminals, her mother got sent to jail and her older sister abandoned her to be raised by her abusive father as an assassin. The realization that she's found a true family in her mentor and team is what gives her the courage to risk her life saving theirs.
  • Code Lyoko: While also fitting into the Fire-Forged Friends category, the Lyoko Warriors also fit this trope, given that only one of them (Yumi) has any regular contact with their actual family, one of them (Aelita) has Parental Abandonment issues and two of them (Ulrich and Odd) don't get along with their actual families. The Warriors may bicker and have their moments of division but when the chips are down, they'll be there for each other. Prime examples include Jeremie's devastation when he drives Ulrich away in "Zero Gravity Zone" by mistakenly assuming he wanted to go to his soccer game instead of the mission for glory instead of getting his dad's approval, Ulrich's guilt when Odd's in a coma and the last thing Ulrich said to him was insults and the entire team's loyalty to Aelita. Ulrich even told off his father for insulting his friends.
  • Sabine Wren and Hera Syndulla of Star Wars Rebels both have complicated family relationships that lead them to choose the crew of the Ghost as their true family. While both eventually reconcile with their birth families, the crew remains their primary family.
  • The plot of the Sonic Boom episode "Knuck Knuck! Who's Here?" revolves around Knuckles coming to terms with being the last echidna and his attempts to find a family of his own. At the end, he comes to realize that Team Sonic is his family.

    Real Life 
  • The old proverb "Blood is thicker than water" - which is meant to imply that family relations are more important than social ones - is actually a misquote of an older saying "the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb"; this means that bonds of personal choice are stronger than something as "accidental" as birth.
  • The Noah's Ark BLT: three animal cubs - a lion, a tiger, and a bear (oh my) - who were taken from a drug dealer's basement in Atlanta, GA. They were still young but had been kept together for so long that they had bonded, despite the fact that bears and tigers are often solitary. They were taken to the Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary, where they've been kept together for 15 years. Their names are Leo, Shere Khan, and Baloo.
  • In addition to RuPaul's Drag Race above, "Momma Ru" RuPaul is a vocal advocate for what he calls "finding your tribe." This often becomes a topic of conversation in the interviews RuPaul conducts.
  • Originating in the ballroom culture in New York during the 80s, LGBT people organized themselves into families called "Houses," as in "House of Aviance."

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FamilyofChoice