Could a Vulcan Adopt a Human Child?

Star Trek Discovery boldly went where Star Trek has only once gone before: interspecies adoption. Ambassador Savek was the legal guardian of Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham. Would a court appoint a Vulcan to be the parent of a human child?

As a preliminary matter, an adult can adopt a minor who is not married. Cal. Fam. Code § 8600. Burnham’s parents were killed in a Klingon terror raid, thus making her an orphan as a child. Furthermore, a prospective adoptive parent cannot be discriminated against because of race, color, or national origin of the parent or child. See, Cal. Fam. Code § 8708. As such, a court prohibiting Savek from adopting Burnham would be discrimination based upon race and national origin because he was Vulcan.

The issue is raising a human child on Vulcan would be on whether it was in the best interest of the child. Courts will examine adoption petitioners in person and must be satisfied that the child’s best interests will be promoted by the adoption. Cal. Fam. Code § 8612(a) and (c). Moreover, the prospective adoptive parents must state in an agreement that the child will be treated as the adoptive parent’s lawful child. Cal. Fam. Code § 8612(b).

A court would have no problem finding that Ambassador Savek had the financial means, proper home, and ability to raise Burnham as an adopted daughter. However, any home with a Sehlat should raise concerns for having an animal with six inch fangs as a pet. Furthermore, a home with a the lack of any emotional support would arguably go against placing a human child with the trauma of her parents’ death in a Vulcan home. However, as Savek was married to the human Amanda, a court could find that Burnham would have a home that provided a strong academic setting and emotional support for a healthy upbringing. Vulcan hopefully had counseling professionals who could help Burnham with the trauma of a terror attack.

If that is what a court found, it arguably did not happen. Burnhman’s showed extremely little humanity when Savek brought her to the USS Shenzhou. It appears Amanda had a non-existent impact on Burnham’s personal development. Furthermore, Savek’s intent with Burnham serving onboard the Shenzhou was to re-introduce her to humans. After seven years on a Federation starship, Burnhman became unstable under threat from Klingons, assaulted her captain, and attempted a mutiny. While Savek adopting Burnham was legal, it arguably was not in Burnham’s best interests, as her emotional response to a death resulted in her abandoning her own plan to capture the Klingon T’Kuvma and instead kill him. A non-Vulcan upbringing could have given Burnham the emotional tools necessary to not start a protracted war because of a revenge killing.

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Josh Gilliland

Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, the ABA Web 100 for Best Legal Blog and Podcast categories, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.