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Supreme Court hears child custody case for Native American child

On Behalf of | Aug 1, 2013 | Custody & Visitation |

Residents of California may be interested to learn about a recent Supreme Court decision in a child custody matter. The case is unusual in that child custody matters are generally handled at the state level. However, in this case, a Native American biological father was seeking custody of his child, who is also part Native American. He asked the supreme court of his state to award custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. That court issued a ruling in his favor and the child was removed from the custody of her adoptive parents.

The child was sent to live with her biological father until the foster parents filed a petition to have the U.S. Supreme Court review the case. The court’s decision was published recently in which they overturned the lower court’s ruling. They stated that provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act speak to continuation of custody when domestic issues occur between biological parents. Prior to his initial request for custody, the child’s father had previously signed a waiver of custody rights, transferring full custody to the biological mother. She, in turn, placed the child up for adoption and completed the process with the child’s adoptive parents.

Since the decision was overturned, the child was returned to her adoptive parents. The child’s father has already indicated that he intends to file a new petition for custody. Since the child has been formally recognized as a member of the Cherokee Nation, the Cherokee Nation District Court now has a valid claim of jurisdiction. A thorough knowledge of the laws and procedures of this body would be helpful to this man when submitting his new petition for custody of the child.

While Supreme Court’s decision will not prevent the father from filing a new petition for custody; it does prevent him from using this particular law as the basis of his application. Those in California who may have considered similar cases can now look to this precedent in making their decision whether to proceed. This man may have other arguments in favor of placing the child in his custody. Knowing what other laws may support his claim will be very helpful for this man in his future child custody petitions.


Source:, “Dad in ‘Baby Veronica’ Indian child case seeks Oklahoma adoption,” Michael Overall, July 9, 2013


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