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Solomon Islands: Adoption Act Amended to Enhance Requirements for Intercountry Adoptions

(Mar. 15, 2017) On February 21, 2017, the National Parliament of Solomon Islands voted to pass the Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016. (Press Release, National Parliament of Solomon Islands, Parliament Passes the Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016 (Feb. 23, 2017); Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016, National Parliament of Solomon Islands website.) The Bill, which amends the Adoption Act 2004, sets out new requirements for adoptions of children in Solomon Islands by non-residents.  (Adoption Act 2004, SOLOMON ISLANDS SESSIONAL LEGISLATION, PacLII database.) It removes the existing provisions related to adoption by non-residents, specifically sections 12, 25, and 26 of the Act, and replaces these with a new part VII. (Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016, cls 7 & 8.)

Previously, a non-resident could be authorized by the court to remove a child from Solomon Islands for the purpose of formalizing an adoption in the country where the adoptive parent is domiciled. (Adoption Act 2004, s 26.) Such authorization was given through a provisional adoption order, with the standard adoption provisions in other parts of the Act applying. (Id. s 26(3).) The new provisions instead require non-residents to apply to the court for an adoption order or interim adoption order. The application “must be accompanied by a report, in the prescribed form, completed by the relevant adoption authority in the applicant’s country of ordinary residence and attesting to the applicant’s suitability to adopt a child.” (Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016, cl 8, inserting new s 25(2).) In addition, the court must request a report from a social welfare officer with respect to whether the application meets certain new requirements. (Id. cl 8, inserting new s 25(3).) These new requirements are in addition to all of the other requirements for approving an adoption in the Act and mean that the court must now be satisfied that “there are no other suitable arrangements in Solomon Islands for the care, support and welfare of the child,” and that “an inter-country adoption is in the child’s best interests.” (Id. cl 8, inserting new s 25(5).)

Removing a child from Solomon Islands for the purpose of adoption without the required court order remains an offense under the amendments, but the Bill enhances the penalties. The current penalty under the Act is imprisonment for up to six months and/or a fine of up to SB$1,000 (about US$128). (Adoption Act 2004, s 25(1).) The new penalty in the Bill is ten years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of 100,000 penalty units, which equates to SB$100,000 (about US$12,825). (Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016, cl 8, inserting new s 26; Penalties Miscellaneous Amendments Act 2009, s 3, inserting new s 50A into the Interpretation and General Provisions Act (Cap. 85, rev. ed. 1996), SOLOMON ISLANDS SESSIONAL LEGISLATION, PacLII database.)

The  Minister for Justice and Legal Affairs, William Bradford Marau, stated that the new intercountry adoption provisions “give further protection against the possibilities of child trafficking in the country.” (Parliament Passes the Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016supra.)

Solomon Islands is not a party to The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption.  (Status Table: 33: Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (last updated Nov. 21, 2016), Hague Conference on Private International Law website.)