VOL. 3
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Pohnpei Civil Action No. 255-87

Trial Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court

March 18, 1988

     Petition for the confirmation of customary adoption of minor children by their mother's adoptive father. The Trial Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court, JUDAH C. JOHNNY, Associate Justice, granting the petition, held that by the laws of Pohnpei State the confirmation of customary adoption was authorized and power of the Court was invoked when such adoption was challenged or questioned.

1.   Domestic Relations - Adoption - Customary Adoption - Customary Practice
It is customary among the people of Pohnpei where married children live in the household of their parents, and the parents take part in the rearing of the growing grandchildren that,for special love and affection, grandchildren get adopted by the grandparents so that the grandchildren share in the inheritance of the grandparents on equal footing with the children of the grandparents.

2.   Domestic Relations - Adoption - Customary Adoption - Confirmation - Courts - Powers
Confirmation of customary adoption is authorized by the laws of

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Pohnpei State, and the laws are designed so that the power of the Court is invoked when a customary adoption is challenged or questioned.

3.   Laws of Pohnpel - Sources of Law - Statutes
39 TTC 5 is one of the Trust Territory statutes adopted into the jurisdiction of Pohnpei State.

Counsel for Petitioners:     None

JUDAH C. JOHNNY, Associate Justice
     In the Trial Division of the Pohnpei State Supreme Court came this matter for hearing on March 18, 1988. The petitioners were present and they testified. The evidence established the following facts:

     1.  The petitioners are husband and wife, and are citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, domiciled in Kolonia, State of Pohnpei. Petitioner Beauter Esau was adopted under Pohnpei custom by a man named Welianter Jacob. The petitioners had been of the household of Welianter Jacob. The petitioners have eight natural children, including Wehr Esau, born September 6, 1978, and Julie Esau born February 20, 1977.

     2.  Welianter Jacob also adopted under Pohnpei custom two of the children of his daughter Beauter, namely Wehr Esau and Julie Esau. He died intestate.

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[1]  The petition seeks confirmation of an adoption of the herein named minors by Welianter Jacob under recognized Pohnpei custom. Welianter died and did not seek to confirm his adoption of minors Julie and Wehr. Part of the remaining estate of Welianter is his social security benefits which are due and payable under the social security program to his surviving heirs and successors. Heirs and successors of Welianter are his children because his wife has also died. His children are his adopted children because he did not have natural children. Thus, petitioner Beauter stands potentially in line, absent any other adoption. However, this is not the relief she seeks. Notwithstanding her status, she seeks to give that benefit to the minors whom she testified were also adopted by the deceased. If there were no adoptions by the deceased of these minors, why would Beauter bother to bring her petition to this Court, when she herself would have otherwise qualified to benefit if she sought to? Her effort here is conclusive evidence that the minors were in fact adopted by Welianter. It is customary among the people of this State, as in the circumstances of this family, where

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the married children live in the household of their parents, and the parents take part in the rearing of the growing grandchildren, that for special reasons or circumstances, as for example, where a girl always stays close to the grandmother and brings her small things that she needs, such as pieces of firewood, broom or fetches water for the grandmother; or where the little grandson likes to go in company with the grandfather to the farm or to fish, or where a certain grandchild likes to sleep with the grandparents in their mat, that the grandparents become more attached to and fond of that child and hold special mutual affection to it. They begin to treat the child in a special way. Unconsciously, they begin to think of the child more than the others. If one mango is found on the farm they bring it (sometimes stealthily) to the special child, and others are unaware of it. They eventually want to make the child benefit from them as their own child. What becomes of the child is usually that it gets adopted by the grandparents, and the child therefore shares in the inheritance of the grandparents on equal footing with the children of the grandparents. The circumstances of this case is no different. The petitioners were living in the household of their

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parents Welianter and his wife. Welianter must have, as a father, taken part in caring for and rearing of the children of the petitioners. He must have become attached and more fond of a child special to him from among the eight children of the petitioners. There is no doubt that an adoption could have resulted, as here fully evidenced by the petitioners.

[2-3]  Confirmation of customary adoption is authorized by the laws of this State. The laws are designed so that the power of the Court is invoked, when such adoption is challenged or questioned.

"When an annulment, divorce, or adoption has been effected in the Trust Territory in accordance with recognized custom and the validity thereof is questioned or disputed by anyone in such a manner as to cause serious embarrassment to or affect the property rights of any of the parties or their children, any party thereto or any of his children may bring a petition in the high court for a decree confirming the annulment, divorce, or adoption effected in accordance with recognized custom. . . If, after notice to all parties still living and a hearing, the court is satisfied that the annulment, divorce, or adoption alleged is valid in accordance with recognized custom in the part of the Trust Territory where it was effected, the high court shall enter a decree confirming the annulment, divorce, or adoption . . ." 39 TTC 5.

This is what is reported the cause of action in this matter. The petitioners desire the payment of social security derived from the

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deceased's coverage to be paid to the named minors. The Social Security Office cannot honor the claim of entitlement of the minors through customary adoption. They therefore bring this action, seeking confirmation. Terms of the statute remain in the Trust Territory structure. The government has changed. We have however adopted various Trust Territory statutes into our jurisdiction including 39 TTC 5. See Pohnpei State v. Mack, et al, 2 P.S.Ct. R 269.

     The petition lies properly in this Court, and on the premise of the facts of this matter, the Court is satisfied that the subject children of this matter were in fact customarily adopted by Welianter Jacob, deceased.

     Accordingly, it is ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that the customary adoption of Wehr Esau and Julie Esau is hereby confirmed.
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