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Supreme Court decides Indian adoption lawsuit

In a follow up to our post from several weeks ago, many Marylanders may have heard that the Supreme Court of the United States, in a rare foray into the family law arena, has decided the case of “Baby Veronica.”

The biological father of the child, who is Cherokee, had argued that under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act he was entitled to custody of his daughter, whom a couple with no Indian heritage at all had adopted. The Indian Child Welfare Act was designed to prevent the disintegration of Native American families in the wake of a disturbing trend of state social workers removing Native American children from their homes and placing them with families who were not of Indian heritage. The Act creates a presumption that the child of a Native American will remain in a Native American home absent extraordinary circumstances.

However, the Supreme Court held that in this case the biological father could not invoke the Indian Child Welfare Act because he informed the child’s mother, who is not a Native American, that he was not interested in pursuing parental rights and then had no involvement in the child’s life until he found out that the biological mother had placed the child for adoption. The Court did not make a final decision as to whether the child would be returned to her adoptive parents, who had the child for several months during her infancy. The Court instead left the matter for the state courts to decide. “Baby Veronica” has been with her biological father and his family since a state court held in the father’s favor two years ago, effectively overturning the child’s adoption.

Any Howard County adoption lawyer would probably be able to tell our readers that this legal battle is far from over. After the Supreme Court’s ruling both the child’s father and the child’s biological paternal grandparents filed their own petitions to adopt the child, creating more issues for the state courts.

Source: Washington Post, “Who will get Baby Veronica?,” July 4, 2013

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