POHNPEI LAW REPORTS
[3 PN.L.R. 87]
IN THE MATTER OF THE
ADOPTION OF ANTER PLUS,
Pohnpei Civil Action No. 53-88
Trial Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court
May 5, 1988
Petition for the adoption of a minor child by his natural father. The petitioner and the natural mother of the child were husband and wife by Pohnpeian custom since July 1977. The child was born prior to their marriage from their premarital association. They both acknowledged the petitioner to be the natural father. The mother consented to the adoption. The Trial Division of the Pohnpei Supreme Court JUDAH C. JOHNNY Associate Justice, granting the petition, held among other things that the natural father of the child could adopt the child to bring him in line with his siblings for purposes of inheritance under the Intestate Succession Act D.L. 4L-155-78.
1. Domestic Relations - Custom - Children Born Before Marriage of Parents - Status
By Pohnpeian custom a child born prior to the marriage of the father and the mother is legitimatized by their subsequent marriage, and that customarily brings the child within inheritance right as reflected-in the German Land Standard Title Document which translated into Pohnpeian reads:
"... Jeri ipuin nenek pan japuaneki japuen a papa tuen jeri melel emen, ma jeme o ine o kopopout epene mur..." (Section 2, Pohnpeian version, German Standard Title Document.)
[3 PN.L.R. 88]
2. Domestic Relations - Custom - Illegitimate Child - Rights of Father
By custom the father of an illegitimate child has some degree of power over it, and has at least a moral obligation to provide for the child, both for its upbringing and inheritance.
3. Domestic Relations - Custom - Illegitimate Child - Legitimation By Subsequent Marriage of Parents - Effect
By custom the legitimation of an illegitimate child by the subsequent marriage of the parents brings the child in rightful line of inheritance
4. Domestic Relations - Statute -Illegitimate Child Legitimated By Subsequent Marriage of Parents Under Custom - Right of Succession
Under the existing law of descent, an illegitimate child who has been legitimatized by the subsequent marriage of the parents under custom has no right of succession if his father dies intestate, as he is not a child born of a marital union. (D.L. 4L-155-78, Section 2 (1) and Section 3 (1) ).
5. Domestic Relations - Custom - First-born Child - Status
In Pohnpeian family structure the first-born child is by custom the head of his siblings.
6. Constitutional Law - Customs and Traditions of Pohnpel - Domestic Relations
The intent of the Pohnpei Constitution is to preserve the traditional rights and responsibilities of parents and their children (Pohnpei Constitution, Article 5, Section 3 (1) and (2) ).
7. Succession - Statute
A child born prior to the customary marriage of the parents, who has been legitimatized by the subsequent marriage of the parents
[3 PN.L.R. 89]
has no right to inherit from his intestate father under statute and can only inherit from him through adoption or by will. (D.L. 4L-155-78)
Counsel for Petitioner: Roberta Lindberg, Esq.,
Micronesian Legal Services Corporation
JUDAH C. JOHNNY, Associate Justice
The parties were before me on April 29, 1988, with counsel the Micronesian Legal Services Corporation by Roberta Lindberg, Esq. Anter Plus was brought to court.
I found the following facts from the evidence received:
1. The petitioner and the natural mother of minor Anter are husband and wife, recognized under Pohnpei custom since July of 1977. Prior to their marriage they had known each other. From their premarital association, a baby was born to them, now the minor Anter Plus, whom they both acknowledge the petitioner to be the natural father. The petitioner desires to adopt the minor. The mother consents to the adoption.
2. Anter Plus, born on September 19, 1975, is the natural child of Dihna Plus. Although the petitioner is the natural father, the child was born out of marital union.
[3 PN.L.R. 90]
3. The petitioner is a proper and suitable person to adopt the minor.
[1-2] The facts of this case present an interesting contrast between the recognized custom of the people of Pohnpei and the law that governs them. Here we have a situation where a child is born to a young man and a young woman who had known each other, when they were not in marital union. Some two years later, they then effected for themselves the requirements that brought. their association into a relationship customarily recognized by the people of Pohnpei as husband and wife. The petitioner thereunder, acknowledged the child as his natural child, thereby customarily legitimatizing the child. The child under Pohnpei custom is known in Pohnpei to be the natural child of the petitioner and the petitioner is customarily established the natural father. Customarily the legitimation process the petitioner has accomplished brings the child within inheritance right. This kind of right is what is reflected in the German Land Standard Title Document which reads in the Pohnpeian translation,
[3 PN.L.R. 91]
“Jeri ipuin nenek pan japuaneki japuen a papa tuen jeri melel emen, ma jeme o ine o kopopout epene mur...” See Section 2, Pohnpeian version, German Standard Title Document.
In Pohnpei tradition, sexual intercourse between two persons when engaging in marriage is not prohibited. It is not entirely encouraged or approved, but is accepted. This at times, obviously leads to children being born to the engaging couple prior to marriage. Quite clearly when a child is born out of wedlock, it is illegitimate. However, if and when the man (father) marries to mother, the child is legitimated. If however the engagement does not resolve into marriage, but a child is born, it remains illegitimate, although the father has some degree of power over it. It is generally considered shameful for a man to abandon a child known to be his offspring. Thus, the man has at least, a moral obligation to provide for the child, both in respect of its upbringing and inheritance.
 As the situation in this case stands, the petitioner, the putative father, married the mother of the child in 1977. They have since lived together as husband and wife, recognized in Pohnpei custom. Under Pohnpei custom, Anter became a legitimate child of the petitioner when the petitioner married his mother in 1977.
[3 PN.L.R. 92]
That legitimation under Pohnpei custom brings the child in rightful line of inheritance.
[4-5 ] It appears that even though custom has brought Anter in line of inheritance, that right has been clouded by provisions of modern law. The existing law of descent in this State does not give right of succession to children in the position of Anter if their father shall die intestate. While it is true that "children" ranks first in the class of succession, the law restricts "children" to only "male and female children born of a marital union." See the Intestate Succession Act of 1977, D. L. No. 4L-155-78, Section 2 (1), and Section 3 (1). It is quite possible that the State Legislature did not anticipate the law to inflict adverse effect on children in this class, or the custom of Pohnpei. What troubles me is if this situation was addressed but let to be abrogated by the statute, since as it is for Anter, he is the first born of the petitioner and the mother. In customary family structure, Anter is the head of his siblings. Yet, if the petitioner shall die intestate, Anter his eldest child will have no right to inherit under D.L. No. 4L-155-87. His younger brothers and sisters, natural or by adoption will inherit. I feel that the statute undermines this good Pohnpei custom.
[3 PN.L.R. 93]
[6-7] Article 5, Section 3 (1) and (2) of the Pohnpei State Constitution is clear in its intent to preserve the traditional rights and responsibilities of parents and their children. I believe that this, is another part of Pohnpei custom that that Article desires to preserve. I will nevertheless refrain from disturbing the statutes at this point, since there is no challenge of validity of the statute. The State Legislature is invited to address this issue. Until a change is made, a child of this kind can only inherit from his father through adoption or by will. The thrust of the petition is to place the child in line of inheritance.
It is ORDERED:
1. The petition of the petitioner, Sostos Henly, is granted. He and the minor Anter Plus shall hold toward each other the legal relation of parent and child and have all the rights and be subject to all the duties of that relationship. This does not affect the rights of Dina Henly as mother.
2. The family name of Anter is changed from Plus to Henly, so that he will hereafter be named and known as Anter P. Henly.