You have requested our advice as to whether an adoption which occurred in India under
a Hindu religious custom would be recognized in the state of Georgia. The specific
facts are as follows.
Rakesh was born in India on December. His natural father is Rajendra and his natural
mother is Leela . From birth, Rakesh lived in the household of his grandfather, Ram
, who is the number holder on this claim.
Although Rakesh has been treated as the number holder's son since birth, this relationship
was formalized in a religious ceremony on June 27, 1966. At the ceremony, the natural
parents offered their child for adoption and the adopting parents accepted the child
as their own. The proceedings were solemnized by a Hindu priest. No governmental registration
was made; however, according to Ram, these religious ceremonies are always recognized
as legal and valid by the civil government. This description and explanation was given
An affidavit, certified by an "advocate" in India as prepared by Rajendra on December
22, 1970, acknowledges Rajendra's paternity of Rakesh and also indicates that Rakesh
was given in adoption to Ram on June 27, 1966 at Muzaf- farpur according to Hindu
custom. The affidavit also indicates that Rakesh "has ceased to be my family member
and has become a family member of Dr. Ram . " It continues, "Sri Rakesh’ s an adopted
son of Sri Dr. Ram aforesaid for all practical and legal purposes and I have no legal
connection whatsoever with him after the date of aforesaid adoption."
This affidavit was effected four years after the event and signed only by the father.
(The affidavit as presented to Social Security Administration appears to be a transcription
of the original since the "signatures" are typewritten.) At the time this document
was prepared the adopting parents were in the United States and apparently were not
parties in the drafting of this instrument.
In 1968 or 1969, Ram and his wife came to the United States; Rakesh joined them in
1970. (It should be noted that his "father" on an Indian passport issued April 3,
1970 was shown as "Rajendra " - that is, his natural, not adopting, father.) Rakesh
continued to live in the number holder's household under the care of the number holder's
brother until his reunion with his "adopting" parents. Since entering the United States,
Rakesh has continuously lived with the number holder and his wife.
The number holder filed a claim for child's benefits on behalf of Rakesh on September
4, 1980. At that time they were both residents of Georgia. The number holder claims
Rakesh is his adopted son based on the Hindu custom adoption ceremony outlined above.
Your initial inquiry is whether the adoption pursuant to a religious ceremony is valid,
absent official records of the adoption. Attached hereto is a copy of a previous opinion
regarding the validity of an adoption pursuant to a religious ceremony in India. See, — GC (E~) to BRSI, 2/19/75. This opinion essentially provides that under the applicable
Indian law, the basic requirements are that the adopting party has the capacity to
adopt and that there is a ceremony of "giving and taking." We note that the Hindu
Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956) provides as pertinent herein that:
No adoption shall be valid unless - (i) the person adopting has the capacity, and
also the right, to take in adoption; (ii) the person giving in adoption has the capacity
to do so; (iii) the person adopted is capable of being taken in adoption; and (iv)
The adoption is made in compliance with the other conditions mentioned in this Chapter.
7. Any male Hindu who is of sound mind and is not a minor has the capacity to take
a son or a daughter in adoption ... 9. No person except the father or mother or the
guardian of a child shall have the capacity to give the child in adoption.
11. (i) if the adoption is of a son the adoptive father or mother by whom the adoption
is made must not have a Hindu son ...
In addition, an analysis of the law in India provided by. the Library of Congress
(copy attached) also states that a ceremony of actual giving and taking in adoption
is absolutely necessary to the validity of an adoption and there is no other mandatory
Absent a formal registration of the adoption, there is no way to verify that the adoption
did take place other than through the statements of persons present at the ceremony
and the actions of all parties subsequent thereto. The affidavit of the child's natural
father and the fact that the child's parents came to the United States without Rakesh
is some evidence that the adoption had taken place. Also, the evidence shows that
Rakesh lived with his grandfather prior to and subsequent to the adoption ceremony.
While it appears that the giving and taking ceremony did occur, a question of whether
the grandfather had the legal capacity to adopt the child could not be answered from
the information in the file. If the grandfather had a living son at the time of the
adoption ceremony, the adoption would not be valid in that he would have lacked the
capacity to adopt under the Indian law.  Assuming however, that he did have the capacity to adopt, then the adoption is valid
under the law of India, but further development to determine his capacity to adopt
As for the recognition of this adoption in Georgia, the general rule is that a status
of adoption when legally created pursuant to the laws of the forum of the adoption
proceedings will be recognized and given effect in other states. This is, at least
to the extent that the status created is not repugnant to the policy of such other
state. That is so even if the procedure was different from that required by such other
state. See, 2 Am. Jr. 2d, Adoption ~ 12. We were unable to find any Georgia cases with respect
to an adoption in a foreign country; however, there is a Virginia court case where
a Greek decree of adoption was honored. See, Doudgeris v. Bambacus, 127 S.E. 2d 145 (Va. 1962). The Virginia court held that adoption decrees of a foreign
country would be recognized and given effect if the foreign court had jurisdiction
with respect to the status of the child. Moreover, in a Georgia case involving an
Alabama adoption the Supreme Court of Georgia held that the status acquired by adoption
and its validity is conclusively determined by the law of the state creating it and
if validly created there, will be recognized and given effect in Georgia, even though
the procedure by which it was created under foreign law is different from the law
of Georgia. See, Watson v. Watson, 67 S.E. 2d 704 (Ga. 1951).
As a result, we are of the opinion that Georgia would recognize the validity of the
religious adoption ceremony done pursuant to Indian law, if the requirements of the
law were complied with. If you determine the adoption is valid under Indian law, it
is our opinion it would be recognized by the state of Georgia.