Marylanders who either have or are considering adopting a child with Native American heritage will want to pay careful attention to a case that is now awaiting the decision of the United States Supreme Court. The Court will have to decide whether the child will remain with her biological father, who is Cherokee, or will be in the home of a couple that has no American Indian heritage.
Before this decision comes down, prospective adoptive parents may want to talk to a Howard County adoption lawyer about the potential consequences of this decision, as it could put several pending adoptions on very questionable legal footing. While ordinarily state laws will control in adoption matters, a federal law passed about 35 years ago gives special rights to Native American parents whose children are being adopted. The aim of the law is to prevent the breakup of Native American families. The provisions make it especially difficult for non-Indians to adopt Native American children without the biological parents’ consent.
The issue in this case is whether this federal law even applies to the situation at hand. The adoptive parent’s lawyers argue that the father terminated his parental rights long before the adoption and then did not support the child after she was born. The adoptive parents suggest that the federal law was not designed to allow uninvolved parents an absolute veto over an otherwise good adoption.
On the other hand, attorneys for the father argue that the man posed no threat to the health or safety of the child and had in fact been found a “fit” and “loving” dad for the girl. The father claimed that when he “terminated” his parental rights, he was under the impression that the child would be staying with the mother.
Prospective adoptive parents in Maryland need to be aware of this federal law. Any residents dealing with adoptive issues should seek answers and make sure their rights are protected. The adoption process can be complicated and challenging, but there are Maryland adoption lawyers there to aid in the process.
NPR, “Emotions run high as Supreme Court hears adoption case,” Nina Totenberg, April 16, 2013.
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