A family law case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States has finally been resolved. A state court had granted child custody of an American Indian child to non-Indian parents. According to the reports, the biological mother of the child had rebuffed the biological father’s marriage proposal and put the child up for adoption. Though the father played no role in the pregnancy or in raising the child for the first 27 months of her life, he was able to gain temporary custody based upon a federal law.
In 1978, Congress passed legislation that sought to protect Native American children and encourage them to be raised with their ancestral heritage intact. The state courts in this case originally ruled that this law required the adopted girl be returned to her Cherokee father. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision, paving the way for the girl to be returned to her adoptive parents. Given the large American Indian population in Minnesota, the case may have implications for parents here as well.
Minnesota families have diverse stories. Some have adopted children while others are raising grandchildren or nieces and nephews. All of these arrangements can have potential implications when a child custody dispute is initiated.
Securing parenting time may not be as easy as some parents think. Different laws on both the state and national level may affect a parent’s right to be with their kids. Accordingly, it should never be assumed that some other interested party cannot secure custody for themselves.
Source: Star Tribune, “SC Supreme Court awards custody of child in American Indian adoption dispute to state couple,” Meg Kinnard, July 17, 2013