Late this past spring, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that an American Indian child should not have been taken from her adoptive parents, a white couple with whom she had been living for the first 27 months of her life. The main issue in the case concerned an interpretation of a federal law intended to keep Indian families intact. The Supreme Court found that the law did not apply to this situation because the biological father relinquished his parental rights even before his daughter was born.
While this decision did not emanate from the courts in San Diego, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision would govern any case in the country under similar facts. This case presents a complicated child custody dispute, involving state and federal laws. Most child custody cases are chock full of serious issues and demands by the parents involved. It is vitally important to contact an experienced family law attorney to help navigate the local laws and court procedures.
Once the child was born, her biological mother agreed to allow a couple from South Carolina to adopt her daughter. Four months later, her biological father changed his mind and sought custody, arguing that he was not aware that the child's mother was planning to place her up for adoption. Citing the National Indian Welfare Act, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the biological father, awarding him custody of the child even though the couple was already in the process of adopting her. However, once the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision, the South Carolina Court ordered a family court judge to approve the child's adoption by the couple. The adoption was finalized on July 31.