Chapter 04 - Relinquishment and Adoption

Chapter 04 - Relinquishment and Adoption

45.0401 Termination of parental rights in a child.


(a) The Court may, upon petition, terminate all rights of a parent or parents in a child in:

(1) proceedings under paragraph (a)(3) of 45.0115 by which the Court has determined the child to be neglected by one or both parents or to be dependent; or

(2) proceedings under paragraph (a)(5) of 45.0115 by which a parent or parents jointly or either of them severally voluntarily relinquish all the parental rights which they or each of them may have in a child, natural or adopted.

(b) No parent may relinquish his parental rights in a child other than in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

45.0402 Relinquishment procedure-Petition-Hearings.


(a) Any parent desiring to relinquish his child petitions the Court upon forms supplied by the Court, giving the following information: name of both natural parents, if known; name of the child, if named; ages of all parties concerned; race and religion of both natural parents, if known; and why relinquishment is desired.

(b) Upon receipt of the petition, the Court sets it for hearing.

(c) The parental rights of a parent may not be terminated by relinquishment proceedings unless the parent join in the petition.

(d) The Court does not issue an order of relinquishment until it is satisfied that the relinquishing parent has been counseled and fully advised of the consequences of his act.

(e) If the Court believes after the hearing that it is in the best interests of the parties concerned that no relinquishment be granted, the Court enters an order dismissing the action.

(f) If the Court is satisfied after the hearing that the relinquishing parent or parents have been counseled under (d) above and that the relinquishment would best serve the interests of all parties concerned, it enters an order of relinquishment.

(g) If the Court is not satisfied that the relinquishing parents have been offered proper and sufficient counsel and advice it continues the matter for a time the Court considers necessary.

45.0403 Final order of relinquishment.


(a) If the Court terminates parental rights of both parents or of the only living parent, the Court, after taking into account the racial, cultural, and religious background of the child, shall order guardianship of the person and legal custody transferred to:

(1) the Department of Health;

(2) a child placement agency;

(3) a relative of the child; or

(4) an individual of good moral character.

(b) The Court considers, but shall not be bound by, a request that guardianship be placed in a grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, or sister of the child.

(c) The order of relinquishment sets forth all pertinent facts brought at the hearing and, in addition, it states that the Court is satisfied that the counsel and guidance provided for in subsection (d) of 45.0402 has been offered the relinquishing parent or parents.

(d) A final order of relinquishment divests the relinquishing parent or parents of all legal rights and obligations they may have with respect to the child relinquished. The order releases the relinquished child from all legal obligations with respect to the relinquishing parent or parents.

(e) The fact that the relinquishing parent or parents are minors in no way affects the validity of the final order of relinquishment.

(c) A person having a living spouse from whom he is not legally separated shall petition jointly with that spouse, unless that spouse is the natural parent of the child to be adopted or has previously adopted the child.

45.0404 Records-Separate dockets.


(a) Records and papers in relinquishment and in adoption proceedings from and after the filing of a petition are confidential and open to inspection only upon order of the Court for good cause shown. Separate dockets are maintained for relinquishment proceedings and for adoption proceedings.

(b) In all matters relating to the relinquishment and adoption of children, the court acts to preserve the anonymity of the natural parents, child, and adoptive parents.

45.0410 Who may be adopted.


Any child under 18 years of age present in the territory at the time the petition for adoption is filed and legally available for adoption under 45.0412 may be adopted. Upon approval of the Court, a person 18 years of age or older but under 21 years of age may be adopted as a child, and all provisions of this chapter referring to the adoption of a child apply to that person.

45.0411 Who may adopt.


(a) Any person 21 years of age or older may petition the Court to decree an adoption.

(b) A minor, upon approval of the court, may petition the Court to decree an adoption.

45.0412 Availability for adoption.


(a) A child may be available for adoption only upon:

(1) order of the Court terminating all parental rights in the child in a proceeding brought under paragraph (a)(3) of 45.0115;

(2) order of the Court decreeing the voluntary relinquishment of all parental rights in the child under 45.0403;

(3) written and verified consent of the guardian of the person, appointed by the Court, of a child whose parents are deceased;

(4) written and verified consent of the guardian of the person, appointed by the Court, of a child whose parental rights have been terminated under paragraph (1) or (2); or

(5) (A) written and verified consent of the parent in a stepparent adoption where the other parent is deceased or his rights have been terminated under paragraph (1) or (2): and

(B) written and verified consent of the parent in a stepparent adoption where the other parent has abandoned the child for a period of 1 year or more or where he has failed without cause to provide reasonable support for the child for a period of 1 year or more. Upon filing of the petition in adoption the Court shall issue a notice directed to the other parent, which notice shall state the nature of the relief sought, the names of the petitioner and the child, and the time and place set for hearing on the petition. If the address of the other parent is known, service of the notice shall be in the manner provided by Rules 4 and 5 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for service of process, or in any other manner approved by the Court. Upon affidavit by the petitioner that after diligent search the address of the other parent remains unknown, the Court shall order service upon the other parent by 1 publication of the notice in a newspaper of general circulation. The hearing shall not be held sooner than 30 days after service of the notice is complete, and at that time the Court may enter a final decree of adoption notwithstanding the time limitation in subsection (b) of 45.0422;

(6) written and verified consent of the parent having only residual rights when custody has been awarded to the other parent in a dissolution of marriage proceeding where the spouse of the parent having custody wishes to adopt the child; or

(7) written and verified consent of the parent or parents as defined under 45.0103, in a stepparent adoption where the child is conceived and born out of wedlock.

(b) Written consent to any proposed adoption shall be obtained from the person to be adopted if the person is 12 years of age or older.

(c) If placement for adoption occurred or custody of the child petition is filed in the Court of American Samoa, shall be available for adoption in substantial accordance with this section or in accordance with the law of the State or Territory where the placement was made at the discretion of the Court.

(d) If no guardian of the person of the child has been appointed and the child is otherwise available for adoption, the individual who has had the child living in his home for 1 year or more may petition the Court to appoint the guardian in order that the written and verified consent of the guardian may be sought. The petition becomes a part of the record in any adoption proceeding initiated later.

45.0413 Placement for purposes of adoption.


No placement of any child legally available for adoption under paragraph (a)(l), (a)(2), (a)(3) or subsection (d) of 45.0412 may be made for the purposes of adoption except by the Court, the Department of Health, a child placement agency or institution, or an individual in whom guardianship of the person of the child has been placed by the Court.

45.0414 Written consent and report.


(a) Unless the placement is made by the Court or in accordance with the law of another State or Territory, written consent of the Department of Health, agency, or individual to the proposed adoption, as required by 45.04 12, shall be filed with the petition to adopt.

(b) In placements by the Department of Health or child placement agencies there shall be filed, in addition to the written consent, a written report showing the following:

(1) the physical and mental health, emotional stability, and moral integrity of the petitioner and the ability of the petitioner to promote the welfare of the child; but not physical examination shall be required of any person who in good faith relies upon spiritual means or prayer in the free exercise of religion to prevent or cure disease unless there is reason to believe the person’s physical condition is such that he would be unable to take care of the child;

(2) the physical and mental condition of the child;

(3) the child’s family background, including the names of parents and other identifying data regarding the parents, if obtainable;

(4) reasons for the termination of parental rights in the child;

(5) the suitability of the adoption of this child by this petitioner and the child’s own disposition toward the adoption in any case in which the child’s age makes this feasible; and

(6) the length of time the child has been in the care and custody of the petitioner,

(c) Any party to the adoption proceeding may be entitled to see the report required under subsection (b), except that the names of parents and adoptive parents and any means of identifying either are not made available except upon order of the Court.

45.0420 Petition for adoption.


(a) The petition for adoption is filed not later than 30 days after the date on which the child is first placed in the home of the adoptive applicants for the purpose of adoption unless the Court finds that there was reasonable cause or excusable neglect for not filing the petition. The Court then fixes a date for the hearing.

(b) Every petition for adoption of a child shall be verified by the petitioner, and shall be entitled substantially as follows: “In the matter of the petition of…. for the adoption of a child”. It contains:

(1) the name, date and place of birth; race, and place of residence of each petitioner, including the unmarried name of the adopting mother, and the date of marriage, if any, of the petitioners;

(2) the name, date and place of birth, and place of residence, if known by the petitioner, of the child to be adopted;

(3) the relationship, if any, of the child to the petitioner;

(4) the full name by which the child will be known after adoption;

(5) the full description of the property, if any, of the child;

(6) the names of the parents of the child, and the address of each living parent, if known to the petitioner;

(7) the names and addresses of the guardian of the person and the guardian of the estate of the child, if any have been appointed;

(8) the name of the agency or person to whom the custody of the child has been given by proper order of Court;

(9) the length of time the child has been in the care and custody of the petitioner;

(10) names of other children, both natural and adopted and both living and dead, of the adopting parents; and

(11) the residence and occupation of each petitioner at or about the time of the birth of the child.

(c) If the adoption placement is made by the Department of Health or a child placement agency, the information required under paragraphs (b)(2) and (b)(6) is not included in the petition but is transmitted to the Court as part of the report required in 45.0414.

(d) A statement of any fee charged relative to the adoption is submitted to the Court with the petition and states that no additional fees are charged.

45.0421 Petition-Written reports.


Except for stepparent adoptions and those cases in which placement for adoption has been made by the Court, or by an individual in whom guardianship of the person of the child has been placed by the Court, or in accordance with the law of another State or Territory, if a petition for the adoption of a child is not accompanied by the written consent and report of the Department of Health or a child placement agency, the Court orders the Department of Health, a child placement agency, or the Probation Department of the Court to make an investigation and file a written report substantially in the form outlined in subsection (b) of 45.0414, including a recommendation as to whether the adoption should be decreed.

45.0422 Hearing on petition.


(a) A hearing on the petition for adoption is held on the date set or the date to which the matter has been regularly continued.

(b) No later than 6 months following the date of the hearing, unless for good cause shown that time is extended by the Court, the Court may enter a decree setting forth its findings and grant to the petitioner a final decree of adoption if it is satisfied as to:

(1) the availability of the child for adoption;

(2) the good moral character, the ability to support and educate the child, and the suitableness of the home of the person adopting the child;

(3) the mental and physical condition of the child as a proper subject for adoption in the home; and

(4) the fact that the best interests of the child will be served by the adoption.

(c) The former name of the child is not to be stated in the final decree of adoption.

(d) If, after the hearing, the Court is not satisfied as to the matters listed under subsection (b), the petition for adoption may either be continued or dismissed in the discretion of the Court.

(e) All hearings with reference to adoption are closed to the public and, in the discretion of the Court, to any child who is the subject to adoption and who is under 12 years of age, but the Court may interview the child whenever it considers it proper.

45.0423 Legal effects of final decree.


(a) After the entry of a final decree of adoption, the petitioner and the adopted person sustain toward each other the legal relation of parent and child, including the rights of inheritance from each other, and have all the rights and be subject to all the duties of a child born in lawful wedlock to the petitioner.

(b) The natural parents are divested of all legal rights and obligations with respect to the child, and the adopted child is free from all legal obligations of obedience and maintenance with respect to the natural parents.

(c) Nothing in this chapter is to be construed to divest any natural parent or child of any legal right or obligation where the adopting parent is a stepparent and is married to the natural parent.

45.0424 Copies of order of adoption-To whom given.


(a) If the Court enters an order of adoption, certified copies are given to the adopting parents, the person or agency consenting to the adoption, the Clerk of the High Court, and the Registrar of Vital Statistics.

(b) The Court or the adopting parents or their legal representative may send to the Registrar of Vital Statistics an application for a birth certificate, signed by the adoptive parents. The Registrar of Vital Statistics issues a birth certificate for the child showing the adoptive parents as the natural parents of the child and that the child is legitimate, and the Registrar then cross-references the new records with any old records and causes any old records of birth and parenthood to be placed in a sealed file and held in the records under security, and it is unlawful for the contents of the sealed file to be released without Court order. The new birth certificate is then placed in the permanent records of the Registrar of Vital Statistics and is the official record of birth upon which all future certified copies of other statistics are issued. The date and place of birth may not be altered and the cross-reference of the Registrar of Vital Statistics to the old records are not revealed or incorporated into the issuance of any certified copies of the birth certificate based upon the new original.

(c) If the child was born outside of American Samoa, a copy of the order of adoption and application for birth certificate is sent to the Registrar (or equivalent office) of the State, Territory, or Nation of birth.

45.0430 Compensation for placing child prohibited.


(a) No person may offer, give, charge, or receive any money or other consideration or thing of value in connection with the consent to adoption or with the petition for adoption except attorney’s fees relative to the adoption proceedings and the charges and fees as may be approved by the Court.

(b) Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty, upon conviction, of class A misdemeanor.

45.0431 Limitation on annulment of adoption.


Final decree of adoption may not be attacked by reason of any jurisdictional or procedural defect after 2 years following the entry of the final decree.

45.0432 Long term guardianships for minor children.


(a) Notwithstanding any other section of law, in appropriate cases serving the best interests of a child, the Court may appoint a qualified person as the child’s guardian with such powers and custodial duties as set forth under 45.0103 (16) and (18), or either, as the Court may order. Guardianships established under this section continue until the child’s age of majority or earlier termination by the Court after a hearing conducted with due notice to all interested parties. An interested party may at any time, with cause, petition the Court to terminate the guardianship.

(b) An individual appointed as guardian or vested with legal custody of a child, or both, may not remove or allow the child to be removed from the Territory for more than thirty days without the prior approval of the Court.

(c) The Court may conduct periodic hearings on its own motion to review and monitor a guardianship authorized under this section.