Empowering Clients To Make Informed, Intelligent Decisions

Personalized Attention, Experienced Counsel

Father enacts decades-old law, sees daughter returned

On Behalf of | Dec 31, 2012 | Child Custody

If one couple’s case is the norm, then adoptive and divorcing parents in Ohio could see the best interests for a child being dismissed. According to federal law, Native American parents have a right to their children that comes before any other child custody concerns. This is due to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, a law that was invoked one year ago by the biological father of a 3-year-old girl.

According to reports, the Native American man is a member of the Cherokee Nation. When the child was born, he told the mother-who is not Native American-that he wanted nothing to do with the child. At the time, the young girl’s parents were engaged. When he told the mother that he was not interested in being a father, she put the baby up for adoption.

A couple adopted the young girl and began caring for her as their own. But when the biological father found out that his daughter had been given up for adoption and was being cared for by someone other than her mother, he invoked the 1978 law. The case made it to the Supreme Court of the state where they live, which ruled in favor of the biological father. With no transition period, the young girl was taken from her adoptive parents to another state to live with a man she had never come to known.

The adoptive parents believe that the law has gone too far, that the best interests of a child should not be overshadowed by a parent’s status as a Native American. Despite these concerns, the law remains as it is-a statute that is sensitive to certain aspects of Indian culture.

Attorneys have challenged the ruling, which saw at least one judge in dissent. The case has been submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, but with only one percent of submitted cases being heard, it is not likely that it will be brought to the highest court.

Source: Daily Mail, “The couple fighting to see Native American girl, 3, who they adopted at birth but were ordered to HAND BACK to biological father because of ‘tribal rights’,” Dec. 25, 2012

Photo of Craig P. Treneff and Andrea L. Cozza
FindLaw Network