It’s not everyday someone tries to adopt an adult as a child, however the courts in Vanuatu have recently dealt with this unusual issue. The case was the proposed adoption of Lou Jesse, an adult foreign national with Chinese origin.
Husband and wife, Nial Nakou and Nauka Elisabeth from Tanna in Vanuatu made an application for the adoption of Mr Jesse, who is in his 20s.
The couple told the court that a traditional ceremony had been done to adopt Mr Jesse into their family and this was followed by an exchange of gifts.
To back their case, a video was submitted to the court but not accepted. Mr Jesse was granted Vanuatu citizenship in 2019 and had wanted to be recognised as a Ni-Vanuatu.
The couple told the court that they had known Mr Jesse since 2018 and had a real desire to adopt him as their child. The application was made with several documents and the signed consent of Jesse’s parents.
The court found that the custom ceremony had no effect as it should have involved the Tanna Council of Chiefs, the Nikoletan, the TAFEA Provincial Council and sworn statements should have been filed by leaders of these authorities.
The court said there are no laws in place for the adoption of adults. It acknowledges that Mr Jesse is a Vanuatu citizen however notes that this does not qualify him to be adopted by the couple.
It could be love, but the real reason for the adoption is not known. This is also the first time such a case has been brought before the court.
Some commentators in Vanuatu have said this was a ploy by Mr Jesse to be recognised traditionally so he could get access to traditional land which foreigners cannot purchase.