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Native American child custody case to be heard by Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court has selected a child custody case to review as a part of the upcoming session. The case is unique because it involves a custody dispute between parents who adopted a child at birth from her biological mother, and then lost a court case against the girl's biological father. The father pursued a claim under the Indian Child Welfare Act, and his right to raise his daughter was affirmed by the state supreme court.

The Indian Child Welfare Act has been a controversial law, but was originally passed in the late 1970s in response to outcry over many Native American children being removed from their homes by child welfare authorities at a much higher rate than the population at large. Investigation into many of these cases showed that some children were being removed despite having loving, stable homes with their biological families. Like most state child custody laws that work to keep families together, this law favors keeping Native American children with their families, and can result in the reversal of an adoption, as in this case.

In this case, the adoptive parents are arguing that the law does not apply because they had the consent of the biological parents originally and because they raised the girl from birth. However, the Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation, where the girl is from, says that it is important to defend the rights of Native American parents and to help make sure Native American children are raised in Native homes.

The outcome of this case could affect large numbers of child custody cases and adoption proceedings in Ohio and throughout the United States.

Source: Associated Press, "Court to review Native American adoption case," Jan. 4, 2012.

For information about child custody laws in Ohio, visit our firm's website.

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