Many of our Maryland readers may know that it is very rare for the Supreme Court of the United States to take up a family law case. But, that is just what is going to happen soon, when the Court decides what to do in a child custody case involving a 3-year-old Native American girl, her biological father and her adoptive parents.
According to the reports, the custody dispute began when the child's biological father traveled from Oklahoma to South Carolina to contest his daughter's adoption. The young girl had been living with a married couple who had adopted her after being present at her birth. It appears that it did not take the girl's biological father long to contest the adoption, because he was granted custody of the girl in 2011.
In making the custody ruling, the state court held that the Indian Child Welfare Act, passed into law in 1978, gives a child's tribe and family a voice in any decision which would affect a child. The case had been appealed all the way to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which ruled that the adoption of the young girl was to be overturned and she was to go back to Oklahoma with her biological father.
Although this case has the potential to have far-reaching implications after the Supreme Court of the United States hears it later this year, it can be easy to overlook the human element of the parties involved. Surely the adoptive parents are heartbroken over the ordeal, but an outside observer can also see how the biological father's rights must be respected as well. Fortunately, most child custody disputes do not get quite this complicated. However, for anyone struggling to assert their rights in a custody dispute, getting the best information on all of the legal options can be a good way to plan an initial approach - and hopefully arrive at a quick solution.
Source: The Washington Post, "Supreme Court to review Native American child custody case," Jan. 4, 2013