In re Two Minor Children (Juv. Nos. 81-86, 82-86),


High Court of American Samoa
Trial Division

JUV No. 81-86
JUV No. 82-86

February 19, 1987


Where child lives with natural parents as well as prospective adopting parents and the only apparent effect of a termination of parental rights would be to enable a prospective adopting parent to obtain higher Social Security benefits, the termination will be denied.

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

Counsel: For Petitioners, Albert Mailo

The maternal grandparents of these two children brought an action for the termination of the parental rights of the natural mother and father. The mother and father are married but separated. The natural mother and her two children have resided with the petitioners since the separation.

Both natural parents have signed "consent and waiver" forms, and both testified that they were willing to have their rights terminated. The court has a duty, however, to make whatever judgment it deems in the best interest of the children. In this case the children have been residing continuously with their natural mother since birth and regard her as their mother. The natural mother is employed. The natural father visits the children from time to time. Neither parent is unfit, and neither has in fact abandoned the children.

The principal effect of a change in legal custody of the children would be to enable their grandfather, who recently became eligible for Social Security benefits, to apply for higher benefits on account of additional dependents. This in itself would not be contrary to the interest of the children. In return, however, the children [4ASR2d22] would be divested of any right to future support from their natural parents. This cost is too high.

The petitions are denied.