Featherston Law Group
Free initial Consultation
Local314-400-2302 Toll Free888-203-1942
Contact Menu
Practice Areas View All
Melissa A. Featherston

Federal child custody ruling could affect Missouri adoptions

A Native American baby has been ordered to be returned to her biological father in a ruling by the Supreme Court of a southern state. The decision, reached by a 3-2 margin, held that a biological parent is given preference over adoptive parents under a specific federal law. This determination, according to the director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, is in line with other state court decisions on child custody across the country. As a result, it may impact any similar cases confronting Missouri courts.

At issue was the application of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). This 1978 law gives both a child's tribe and its family a say in the decisions that are made on behalf of the child. In deciding that the law took precedence over a state adoption proceeding, the court also ruled that the child's interest in maintaining her Native American heritage was a factor in its ruling.

Despite the order, the court did find that the adoptive parents had created a substantial loving connection with the child. However, the court found that the biological father had also shown a desire to care for his child. This desire, along with the evidence he presented demonstrated that he has established a loving and stable home for the child, leading the court to conclude that he should retain custody.

This South Carolina court decision does not directly affect Missouri adoptions. However, Missouri parents considering an adoption under similar circumstances may benefit from understanding the facts and circumstances involved. Under the ICWA, a Native American child's biological parents are given certain legal rights, even when they do not have custody of their child.

To best eliminate any uncertainly regarding the application of the ICWA in our state, it may be prudent to seek experienced legal advice early on so prospective parents can avoid any child custody issues that may arise in the future.

Source: Native American Times, "South Carolina Supreme Court awards Cherokee father custody," Associated Press, July 27, 2012

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Featherston Law Group
Local314-400-2302 Toll Free888-203-1942