PR 01310.003 American Samoa
A. PR 86-003 Leemo T~, American Samoan Adoption
DATE: January 31, 1986
Under the law of American Samoa prior to April 1976, an adoption by registration by matai does not create any rights or responsibilities as between the adoptee and the spouse of the adopting matai. (T~, Leemo, — RAIX (S~) , to RC. , 01/31/86. )
The claimants, Kineti and Mineseta T~ presently are receiving child's insurance benefits on the account of their deceased adoptive father, Tufi T~. The children were adopted by Mr. T~ in 1975 by means of matai registration, pursuant to former section 701-703 of Title 17 of American Samoa Code ("A.S.C.") A second application for child's benefits for Keneti and Mineseta has now been filed on the account of Mr. T~ widow, Leemo T~. Mrs. T~ is a recipient of retirement insurance benefits. The children and Mrs. T~ are domiciliaries of American Samoa. You have asked for our opinion as to whether or not Keneti and Mineseta became the adopted children of Mrs. T~ as a result of the matai adoptions.
AS explained in our opinion re Faatma L~, January 30 1970, prior to April 1976, American Samoa recognized two forms of adoption: (1) adoption by judicial proceedings, and (2) adoption by registration by matai, the means under consideration here. A.S.C., Title 17, §§601-703. "Matai" is the designation of a traditional Samoan rank or status, recognized by the laws of American Samoa. See A.S.C., Title 1, §§700-804. The procedures for effecting a matai adoption are set out at A.S.C., Title 17, former sections 701 and 702. Significantly, it appears that this type of adoption may be accomplished unilaterally by the matai, without the participation or consent of his spouse. Compare A.S.C., Title 17, §652(a) (requiring the spouse to join in a petition to adopt in judicial proceedings). Moreover, A.S.C., Title 17, section 602, the provision specifying the legal relation- ship between all adoptees and adoptive parents, gives no indication that any rights or responsibilities as between an adoptee and the spouse of an adopting matai are created by matai adoption.
In this case, petitions by Mr. T~ a certified matai, to adopt Keneti and Mineseta by matai registration were duly registered on July 3, 1975. Mrs. T~ did not join in these petitions, nor is she referred to anywhere therein. Thus, in our opinion, Mrs. T~ was not and, indeed, could not have been a party to these matai adoptions. As she candidly acknowledged in her December 4, 1984 statement to SSA, "I was not and am not a matai (chief). Keneti and Mineseta were adopted through the matai adoption and only a matai can adopt the children in a matai adoption method." The adoptions did not establish a parent and child relation- ship between Mrs. T~ and Kineti and Mineseta, nor did they invest. the children with rights of inheritance from Mrs. T~
These sections of the code were repealed in 19~6 by P.L. l422, effective April 20, 1976. For purposes of this opinion, we will assume that that repeal did not invalidate matai adoptions registered prior to the effective date.