A child custody matter will soon be heard in oral arguments at the United States Supreme Court. This is all a part of an appeal of a couple ordered to turn over a 2-year old girl they had raised from birth to her biological father that also happens to be an American Indian.
It is alleged that the biological father had given up his parental rights by a text message that he had sent. However, in part because of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, the child was returned to the custody of her father in 2011. The Indian Child Welfare Act, a piece of federal legislation, was put in place to prevent practices that caused Native American parents from losing custody of their children.
Like so many cases that eventually are heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, this one pits state statutes against federal law. The attorneys for both sides will be arguing that, depending on what client they represent, one law versus the other should be applied to this situation.
The attorneys for the couple seeking to regain custody of the child will likely argue that their clients were “ideal” parents, and that the biological mother that gave the child up for adoption was not a Native American. The lawyers for the biological father are expected to argue that, whoever the girl’s mother happened to be, the child is nevertheless an American Indian by the definition of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
However, the tragedy concerning a case like this one is that placement of a child concerns so much more than technical interpretations of statute language. Whatever the outcome of this particular ruling, the attorneys, judges, and all parties involved hopefully will still take into consideration the welfare of the child.
Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “Top court to hear American Indian adoption case,” by Jonathan Stemple and Terry Baynes, Jan. 4, 2013
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