In re a Minor Child (Juv. No. 95-86),


High Court of American Samoa
Trial Division

JUV No. 95-86

June 29, 1987


Natural father's. parental rights cannot be terminated without compliance with statutory requirements, including that diligent efforts be made to give actual notice.

A party seeking the termination of parental rights must provide notice to the child's natural father, either by the statutorily approved method, or by publication if permitted by court order.

In assessing the best interests of a child for the purposes of a proceeding to terminate parental rights so that the child can be adopted, the court must consider the prospective adopting parents' ability to support the child until the child's majority and may therefore consider the ages of the child, of the natural parents, and of the prospective adopting parents.

The best interests of a two-year-old child would not be served by terminating the parental rights and obligations of her natural mother so that she could be adopted by her seventy-six-year-old great-grandmother.

Before REES, Chief Justice, AFUOLA, Associate Judge, and TUIAFONO, Associate Judge.

Counsel: For Petitoners, Talalelei A. Tulafono, Roger K. Hazell

We cannot grant the requested termination of parental rights. Aside from the apparent failure to serve the natural father in accordance with the court's order allowing publication or with the alternative method provided by statute, the prospective adopting parent is the child's seventy-six-year-old great-grandmother. [4ASR2d181]

Although the Court greatly admires grandparents and other relatives who provide love and shelter to the children of family members who are less well situated to take care of them, there are some cases in which a fa'a Samoa adoption would be proper but a legal adoption would not. Every child has a strong interest in having natural or adoptive parents who will be able to support him and legally obliged to do so until he reaches the age of majority. This child is only two years old. When she reaches the age of majority her natural parents will be in their thirties and the prospective adoptive parent will be ninety-two years old. We understand that other family members may be willing to take over the care of the child if her great-grandmother should become unable to care for her, but this can happen whether or not the legal rights and obligations of parenthood are shifted from the natural parents to the great-grandmother. The only question before us is whether the natural parents' legal rights and obligations should be terminated, and we conclude that they should not .