PR 01325.138 Ghana
A. PR 86-007 Grace N~ - Recognition Of Customary Adoption In Ghana —
DATE: February 25, 1986
ADOPTION AS AFFECTING INHERITANCE RIGHTS — GHANA
GHANA — Recognition of Customary Adoption in Ghana
A customary adoption, established by the testimony of credible witnesses, involving parties domiciled in Ghana and meeting the requirements of Ghanian law will suffice to allow entitlement as a legally adopted child. (N~, Grace, ~— RAIX (S~), to RC, 02/25/86.)
An application for survivor's benefits has been filed on behalf of Akonefa O~ as the adopted child of the deceased wage earner, Grace N~. Akonefa was born in Ghana on December 4, 1974. Her mother died in childbirth. During a family meeting held in Ghana on December 28, 1974, Ms. N~ allegedly adopted Akonefa in accordance with tribal custom. Ms. N~ subsequently emigrated to California, where she died on May 28, 1984. Akonefa has always resided in Ghana in the custody of her natural father, Mike O~.
The claims file contains two affidavits, both dated July 17, 1984 attesting to the purported adoption. In his statement, Mr. O~ avers that the December 28, 1974 meeting was called by the head of his family. Those in attendance agreed that Akonefa should be adopted by her great aunt, Ms. ~. According to Mr. ~, Ms. N~ concurred with this decision and immediately consented to the adoption. The second affidavit is signed by Theodore A~~, the self-styled head of the family. Mr. ~ states that he convened and presided over the December 28, 1974 meeting and that during the meeting Akonefa was given in adoption to Ms. N~. Evidently, there is no written record, official or unofficial, documenting the adoption. Based on the foregoing, you have asked whether Akonefa was validly adopted under the laws of Ghana and, if so, whether such an adoption would be recognized in California. .. .. Customary adoption is recognized in Ghana. The adoption must be conducted in public. The adoptive parent and child have to belong to the same tribe. It is necessary for the adoptive parent to declare his/her intention to adopt in the presence of witnesses and to obtain the consent of the family unit. as well as the parents of the adoptee. Since a customary adoption need not be documented or registered, the adoption may be established by the testimony of credible witnesses. Although Ghanaian courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate the validity of a customary adoption, a court decree is not essential to validate such an adoption.
The adoption alleged in this case is attested to by two witnesses, including Akonefa's only living natural parent, Mr. 0~, and the family leader who presided over the transaction, Mr. A~ . The affidavits submitted by these wit- nesses indicate that all the requirements for a customary adoption were met on December 28, 1974. Akonefa and Ms. N~ were members of the same extended family and so, presumably, belonged to the same tribe. The adoption was conducted openly with the apparent consent of the natural and adoptive parents and the concurrence of the "family" as a whole. Thus, in our opinion, if you find these affidavits to be trustworthy, you must also find that Akonefa was adopted by Ms. N~ in accordance with Ghanaian law.
Your second question, regarding the recognition California would give to a Ghanaian customary adoption, is not pertinent to the adjudication of this case. A claimant is a "legally adopted child" under section 216(e) of the Act if the adoption is valid under the law of the place where the adoption occurred and either the adoptive parent or child was then a domiciliary of that place. GC opinions re Niko D~, September 13, 1961; Nick A~ D-10973, June 9, 1965. Since in this case all parties were domiciled in Ghana at the time of the alleged adoption, Ghanian law is dispositive.
Our discussion of Ghanaian law derives from information provided to this office by the Law Library of Congress.
On the other hand, a statutory adoption, pursuant to the Adoption Act of 1962, as amended, can only be granted by a Ghanaian court. An applicant for a statutory adoption must be at least 25 years of age and 21 years older than the prospective adoptee. A statutory adoption is evidenced by an official court order of adoption.