Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has issued a ruling in two probate case in which he explains the difference between the Carolinian custom of mwei mwei and fa’am adoptions.
Camacho’s ruling also cited a Carolinian woman, Ignacia Kani Teigita, who married Catalino Tagonan Cangco, a Filipino man who moved to Saipan after World War II as part of the U.S. military’s effort to rebuild the Northern Mariana Islands.
Camacho ruled that four categories must be satisfied for mwei mwei adoption to occur: Whether the natural parents consented to a mwei mwei adoption; whether the adoptive parents consented to adopt the child as a mwei mwei; whether the adopted child recognized the adoptive parents as their “real” parents; and whether the community was aware of the mwei mwei adoption.
The judge said fa’am is the Carolinian custom of taking in foster children.
Unlike a mwei mwei adoption, child adopted under the fa’am tradition is not entitled to inherit from the foster parent, Camacho said.
Camacho discussed the difference between the two forms of adoptions in the probate of the estate of the deceased Juan Saramina Teigita and Mariana Kani-Teigita, and the estate of the deceased Jose Rafugau Kani.
The judge found that under the totality of the circumstances, Pedro Kani Teigita and his sister Cayetana Kani Teigita have failed to prove by preponderance of the evidence that they were mwei mwei adopted by their biological grandparents, Mariana Kani-Teigita and Juan Saramina Teigita.
The judge also found that there was no mwei mwei adoption because Pedro Kani Teigita and his sister, Cayetana Kani Teigita, as very young children who were unable to support themselves, were taken in by their biological grandparents as fa’am, the Carolinian custom of taking in foster children.
Camacho said the fa’am was done after Catalino Tagonan Cangco did not want the children of his wife, Ignacia Kani Teigita, from her prior relationship to be part of his household.
Camacho found that the overwhelming evidence shows that the community was not aware that Pedro Kani Teigita and his sister, Cayetana Kani Teigita, were mwei mwei adopted by their grandparents, Mariana Kani-Teigita and Juan Saramina Teigita.
On Feb. 20, 2019, Eloy Dela Cruz, the administrator of the estate of Juan Saramina Teigita and Mariana Kani-Teigita, filed in court a petition for decree of final distribution of the estate.
Eloy Dela Cruz is the son of Cayetana Kani Teigita Dela Cruz, also known by her maiden name, Cayetana Kani Teigita.
Joseph Kani Ruak, the administrator of the estate of Jose Rapugau Kani, objected to the petition for final distribution of Juan and Mariana Teigita’s estate. The heirs of Joaquin Kani Teigita also objected to the final distribution.
Camacho heard the case last Aug. 19 and 22.
Rosemond Santos appeared as counsel for the estates of Juan Saramina Teigita and his wife, Mariana Kani-Teigita.
Brien Sers Nicholas served as counsel for the estate of Jose Rapugau Kani and its administrator.
Janet H. King appeared as counsel for the heirs of Joaquin Kani Teigita and their representative.