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Tribal order for child custody leads to parents' nightmare

Child custody battles in Ohio are not always between the parents. Sometimes the state may be a litigant and sometimes an organization or religious entity may be part of the official action. The fight has the potential to become a battle of wills instead of trying to do what is best for the child. A Native American tribe in one state is facing the latest in years of numerous conflicts with state authorities in a child custody struggle with the parents of a newborn.

The mother of the baby is a member of the tribe but the father is not. While still in the hospital, a tribal judge ordered that the child be taken from the parents to be placed in the care of the maternal grandmother, who would make all pertinent decisions regarding the welfare of the child. As a result of the order, two members with tribal law enforcement came to remove the baby from the hospital. It was also ordered that two other children the mother had from a previous relationship be placed with the grandmother, as well. According to the grandmother, her daughter was in an abusive relationship with the baby's father, and she filed for emergency action so that her grandchild would be safe from perceived harm.

Even those who are thoroughly familiar with tribal law agree the tribe was in error in its actions. The tribe was out of its authority in attempting to enforce its orders beyond its borders. For the order to have been authorized, it should have gone to the family court of the county involved for approval before action was taken. In the end, the child was returned to her parents. The tribe cannot face litigation, but the baby's parents are considering filing a lawsuit against the hospital and the police department.

Not all child custody cases involve such complication. Even when the entities completely agree on the best interest of the child, however, legal advice is preferable to ensure any agreement is binding.  An Ohio family law attorney will be able to assist his or her client, whether the custody determination process goes smoothly or whether they face formidable opponents.

Source:, "Legal experts say Miccosukee tribe overstepped authority in seizing baby from Miami hospital", David Ovalle, March 24, 2018

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