TN 6 (05-11)

PR 08605.240 Micronesia

A. PR 11-085 Whether Maktenina T~ has provided proof of guardianship of Jerina F~ under the law of the State of Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia.

DATE: September 30, 2010

1. SYLLABUS

In the state of Chuuk of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Supreme Court Trial Division may issue orders for custody of minor children, as it deems justice and as the best interests of all concerned may require. A notarized document that was not issued by the court is insufficient to confer legal guardianship. Additionally, the State of Hawaii, where the citizens (applicant and minor) of Chuuk reside, requires court approval of guardianship appointments.  

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED

You asked whether Maktenina T~ is the legal guardian of her granddaughter, Jerina F~, for purposes of applying for an original Social Security number on Jerina’s behalf. Additionally, you requested the requirements for establishing legal guardianship in the State of Chuuk of the Federated States of Micronesia (Micronesia). There are four states in Micronesia: Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap. The guardianship laws in Micronesia are particular to each state, as the states have independent legislatures. Accordingly, the guardianship laws of Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap are not applicable to this case. For more information about Chuuk, please visit the legal information system about Micronesia, “About the State of Chuuk,” at http://www.fsmlaw.org/chuuk/index.htm .

SHORT ANSWER

A notarized document is insufficient to confer legal guardianship in the State of Chuuk. Additionally, the State of Hawaii, where Ms. T~ and Jerina reside, requires court approval of guardianship appointments. Accordingly, Ms. T ~as not provided sufficient evidence to establish herself as Jerina’s guardian under the law of either Chuuk or Hawaii.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

According to the information Ms. T~ provided to the Honolulu Field Office, Jerina is a minor from the State of Chuuk in Micronesia, and she currently resides with Ms. T~ in Waipahu, Hawaii. Ms. T~ alleges that she is Jerina’s paternal grandmother, and the mother of Jerina’s alleged biological father, Fraim F~. Ms. T~ indicated that Jerina was born on January 10, 2003 and is a citizen of Chuuk. From the information provided, Jerina appears to have at least one living parent, her father, who lives in Chuuk. We have no information on the custodial status of Jerina’s mother, Reiki M~. The Field Office states that the only information it obtained concerning Jerina’s mother is that she lives in Chuuk. On or about March 2, 2010, Ms. T~ told the Field Office that she was Jerina’s guardian under the laws of the Micronesia. She asserted that legal guardianship of a child may be obtained through a notarized document and does not require a formal court procedure. In support of her position, she submitted a piece of paper entitled “Appointment of Legal Guardianship” and alleged that it conferred her legal guardianship of Jerina. The “Appointment” consists of a signed declaration from Mr. F~, purporting to appoint Ms. T~ as the guardian for his daughter. The declaration attempts to assign Ms. T~ “all the powers and authorities to act on my behalf to sign any and all documents … [and] receive all benefits which the minor is entitle [sic] to.” This letter, dated March 27, 2008, included the stamp and illegible signature of the Clerk of Court of the Chuuk State Supreme Court in Micronesia. Additionally, Ms. T~ submitted an affidavit, in which she attested to being a legal citizen of Chuuk and a resident of Hawaii. She represented that her son, Mr. F~, lived in Chuuk. She further represented that Mr. F~ gave her legal guardianship over Jerina. Ms. T~ and a notary public signed the affidavit on February 17, 2010. The Field Office provided us with an illegible copy of Jerina’s passport, a copy of a Chuuk court order concerning non-parties, and a copy of Jerina’s application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5), dated February 27, 2010. Ms. T~ did not provide Jerina’s birth record or any custody orders. Thus, we have no evidence regarding Jerina’s birth mother, or other potential parties of interest. We have no evidence that any such parties were notified of Mr. F~’s attempt to appoint guardianship of Jerina. Additionally, we have no evidence of any court order appointing guardianship.

DISCUSSION

Ms. T~ alleges that Jerina is a citizen of Micronesia. Although citizens of Micronesia are not citizens or nationals of the United States, they are citizens of a Compact of Free Association (CFA) nation. See Program Operations Manual Support (POMS) RM 10211.050. A citizen of a CFA nation who presents appropriate evidence of age, identity, and citizenship may obtain a work-authorized Social Security card. POMS RM 00203.420(B);

RM 10211.075(D). In order to obtain a non-work Social Security card, the individual must also establish a valid non-work need for a Social Security card, and submit a letter from “the appropriate government entity explaining the need for the [card].” POMS RM 00203.510. Your question pertained only to the legal requirements for establishing guardianship. Therefore, we will not discuss whether Jerina is eligible for a non-work Social Security card. 

Because Ms. T~ alleges that Jerina is a citizen of Micronesia, but lives in Hawaii, we will discuss the legal requirements for establishing guardianship under the laws of both Hawaii and Micronesia.

In Hawaii, family courts have exclusive jurisdiction to appoint guardians for minors. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 551-1 (West 2010). Family courts also have exclusive original jurisdiction to determine custody and guardianship of any child in Hawaii. Id. § 571-11. Thus, under Hawaii law, Ms. T~’s notarized documents would be insufficient to establish guardianship.  Additionally, the Hawaii Supreme Court has held that Hawaii is limited in its power to terminate the parental rights of a mother who is a citizen of a foreign nation. In Interest of Doe, 926 P.2d 1290, 1298 (Haw. 1996). We do not have evidence regarding the parental status and domicile of Jerina’s mother, but assuming that she is a citizen of Micronesia, a Hawaii court would not have jurisdiction to terminate her parental rights.

Ms. T~’s notarized documents appear to be insufficient to establish guardianship under Chuuk State law. The Chuuk State Supreme Court Trial Division may issue orders for custody of minor children, as it deems justice and as the best interests of all concerned may require. Chuuk State Code tit. 23, § 1042 (1966). Available at http://www.fsmlaw.org/chuuk/code/ (last visited on Aug. 3, 2010).

 Although the documents provided by Ms. T~ appear to have been notarized in Chuuk, the documents were not issued by a Chuuk court. Our research identified no legal authority allowing guardianship based on notarized documents. Therefore, Ms. T~’s notarized documents did not establish guardianship under statutory law.

Although some government entities have erroneously honored notarized documents as sufficient evidence of guardianship, no statute authorizes the practice to make it legally binding. See E-mail from Larry W~, Staff Attorney, Micronesia Supreme Court, to Kathryn W~ (Sept. 2, 2010). We could find no court decision in either Micronesia or Chuuk that was directly on point.  Furthermore, the Micronesia Social Security Administration does not accept notarized documents in cases involving death benefits. To receive benefits on a non-birth parent’s account, the Micronesia Social Security Administration requires two different types of documentation proving child status: (1) proof that the child has been adopted, and (2) proof that the child is actually dependent on the adoptive parent. http://www.fm/fsmss/Index.htm See Micronesia Social Security Administration,  (last visited Sept. 13, 2010). The agency does not indicate that proof of guardianship is sufficient. Furthermore, it indicates that proof of “Customary adoption or Court order for adoption must be petitioned and signed by the wage earner.” Id. (emphasis added). See W~ E-mail. Thus, notarized documents would not be legally binding in this case.

CONCLUSION

Ms. T~ has not provided sufficient evidence to establish guardianship in the State of Chuuk. Moreover, Hawaii requires a court order to honor an assertion of guardianship over a minor. Accordingly, Ms. T has not established herself as Jerina’s guardian. 


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PR 08605.240 - Micronesia - 10/23/2012
Batch run: 10/23/2012
Rev:10/23/2012