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U.S. Supreme Court rules on adoption case

California residents might be interested to learn of the Supreme Court decision to rule in favor of the adoptive parents in the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. The case centered on whether the biological father, who is a member of a Cherokee tribe, could stop the adoption using the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Supreme Court overruled the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court that sent the child to live with her biological father.

The biological mother arranged for the child to be adopted by a couple in South Carolina, and the couple took custody of the child at birth. When the baby was four months old, the court notified the biological father of the adoption. He filed suit to stop it using the ICWA. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that he could use the protection of the ICWA to stop the adoption. The child is only 1.2 percent Cherokee, but she falls under the strict interpretation of the act due to the fact that her father is a member of the tribe. The child was sent to him and has resided in Oklahoma for the last 18 months. She is now four-years-old.

The court didn't rule on the validity of the ICWA, which was intended to stop Indian children from being involuntarily removed from their families. The Supreme Court ruled that in this case, there wasn't an Indian family to break-up, and therefore the ICWA didn't apply to the situation. In South Carolina, without the provisions of ICWA, the father would've had his rights terminated because he offered no support to the mother during her pregnancy or for the first four months of the child's life.

Potential adoptive parents may wish to allow a family law attorney to help them navigate the complicated adoption process. An attorney can advise and prepare the correct paperwork that will allow a newly created family to possibly live without the fear of custody issues.

Source: Deseret News, "Supreme Court sides with adoptive family in divisive custody battle for Native American child", Lois M. Collins, June 25, 2013

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