A court case regarding the custody of a 2-year-old Cherokee girl who had been adopted at birth has been settled in favor of her biological father.
Texans will be interested to learn that the final decision in this case hinged on the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law that was created to assist in keeping Native American children with their parents. The law was given authority over state adoption laws in this child custody dispute.
This particular case was heard in South Carolina, but child custody disputes involving adoption occur in every state, including Texas. The 2-year-old in this situation was born in Oklahoma. Though the girl had been adopted by a couple in South Carolina, her biological father petitioned for custody soon afterward.
The father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, was awarded custody by a South Carolina court, and he returned to Oklahoma with the girl. However, the couple who adopted the child appealed the decision, contending that they had formed a parental bond with her. The case went to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which sided with the Indian Child Welfare Act.
In July, the court ruled that the federal law superseded state adoption law, so the girl should properly be in the custody of her biological father. The adoptive couple appealed that ruling, but on Aug. 22, the high court ruled 3-2 against rehearing the case.
The girl’s biological parents were apparently not married when she was born, and the father was serving in the U.S. military in Iraq. He did not know that the girl had been put up for adoption until after the adoption went through. The case highlights the importance of interested parties having legal representation to protect their rights in child custody cases.
Source: Muskogee Phoenix, “South Carolina Supreme Court denies rehearing custody case,” Aug. 23, 2012