Wyoming Supreme Court Says Wyoming Has Jurisdiction Over International Adoptions

Wyomings courts have authority to recognize adoptions approved under international treaties, Wyomings Supreme Court has ruled.

Jim Angell

December 28, 20203 min read

Wyo supreme court
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyoming’s courts have authority to recognize adoptions approved under international treaties, Wyoming’s Supreme Court has ruled.

Justices unanimously directed a state district court to order the issuing of a Wyoming birth certificate for a Chinese child whose adoption by Wyoming parents was approved under international rules designed to protect the rights of children in international adoptions.

According to the ruling, the child, identified only as “MAJB,” was adopted by “DLB” and “DAB” from a Chinese orphanage in April 2016.

The adoption was made under terms of the “Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption” and the parents received a “Hague Adoption Certificate” from the U.S. State Department.

After arriving in the United States, the boy was examined by physicians, who determined he was born in 2005, not 2003 as was listed on the international adoptions documents.

The parents asked a district court to approve the adoption and order the production of a birth certificate showing the child’s accurate birth date.

However, the district court dismissed the request, saying state law did not give it the authority to enter an order of adoption that would change the date of birth or the authority to deal with an international adoption.

The opinion, written by Justice Kari Gray, noted the court has not dealt with a similar case in the past.

“This case is unlike any other we have considered,” the opinion said. “It does not involve the termination of parental rights, a nonconsenting parent, or the failure to comply with statutory procedures. Instead, we are asked to apply Wyoming law to an adoption completed in conformity with stringent intercountry and federal procedural protections, but one that has left a child without a birth certificate or any other record reflecting an accurate birth date.”

Justices noted that under state law, the state must issue a birth certificate in cases of international adoption to confirm a child’s U.S. citizenship and added the birth certificate must be accurate.

“An official document reflecting a correct date of birth is integral to fundamental rights and privileges of United States citizenship including … the right to vote and eligibility for military service,” the opinion said.

As a result, there is no reason for the lower court not to approve the issuing of a birth certificate with the child’s correct birth date, the opinion said, 

Justices also noted that state law does not expressly prohibit the state’s courts from having jurisdiction over international adoptions.

“The district court has … jurisdiction to approve the Hague Convention adoption and is statutorily authorized to issue a decree of adoption allowing (the child) to obtain a Wyoming birth certificate with an accurate date of birth,” the opinion said. 

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Jim Angell