Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I am writing on behalf of my grand-aunt and her sons who after many years are left feeling deceived, frustrated and upset.
My grand-aunt has two sons who were adopted at a tender age by her eldest brother who is an American citizen (Jamaican by birth). She agreed with the adoption because she hoped that her brother would have assisted her with the boys and even hoped that he would have filed for them. During this time he convinced her to stay with their mother to take care of her, which she did while trying to fend for the boys.
My grand-aunt got no assistance from her brother even when she tried to get clarity as to why he adopted her boys and yet refused to acknowledge the need to assist. The boys are now adults and are left feeling frustrated and upset about the situation and would even like to get their names changed back to the original.
This matter was made worse when my grand-aunt's brother sold the house in which she and the boys resided without them being aware and they were basically kicked out of the house, having nowhere to go.
As an adult, one of her sons applied for an American visa but was unsuccessful. He was told that he should let his adopted father file for him as he is an American citizen.
Can my grand-aunt sue her brother? Can the sons sue their adopted father/uncle? How can they change their names?
Despite what appears to be a legal adoption, the uncle made no arrangements to get the boys to reside with him, nor did he make any provision for their maintenance and support. He essentially ignored them, though they were no longer your grand-aunt's legal sons and she had no legal obligation to continue to provide for them. An adoption would have meant that all her parental rights and obligations had passed to her brother.
It is not clear whether he provided any form of salary and/or support for her duties as the caregiver of their mother and for all the housework in cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and generally maintaining the house and garden. The boys grew up in their biological mother's care, and she unfortunately did not consider taking the issue of the adoption back to the courts, to revoke the order, and to order that her brother pay up all the expenses met by her for the children's survival and development, from the date of the adoption. It was his legal duty once he adopted them to provide for them and he did not. Though the Adoption Act has no clear provision as to the revocation of an adoption order, it is clear from some sections of the Act that this can be done. One wonders also whether the sons had not acquired an interest in the property.
Your grand-aunt should act and go back to court. It would of course be advisable for her to retain a lawyer experienced in family law and in particular, adoption matters. She could also go for advice to the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPSFA). She should relate hers and her sons' experiences and ask for their assistance to have the adoption orders revoked, and ask for an application for the brother to repay all her expenditures for the upbringing of his sons, who were unceremoniously left in her care. Or, she may decide to leave the adoption order in place and on his death, help her sons make their claims for their share of his estate, to which they are legally entitled to have and can so act.
In any case, she can file a claim against her brother for the monies she had to spend for the provision of maintenance for the boys, throughout their youth, and their development into adulthood. He is legally bound to refund to her all the costs of their upbringing plus interest on the said sum until the date of payment to her.
So yes, your grand-aunt and her sons can sue her brother, their adopted father, and obtain recompense for his complete failure to meet his legal duties and financial responsibilities. There should ultimately also be filed an application for the adoption order to be revoked and thereby release your cousins from its yoke, which is stifling their lives.
Your grant-aunt must go the CPFSA for advice or to the court which made the order of adoption, or the family court for the parish they reside in, or obtain the services of a lawyer as I mentioned above. She must act, as she has legal rights and legal redresses and she has wasted too much time already.
Please assist her and encourage her to act now and as quickly as possible and that even if her brother dies she must take legal action against his estate for her refund, plus interest, and for them their lawful share of his estate.
I hope I have clarified the matter for you. All three must act now and obtain what they are legally entitled to.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.