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Supreme Court to decide on Indian father's parental rights

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is meant to "prevent the breakup of the Indian family," and the law applies in every state, including Texas. The Supreme Court, however, has a complicated fathers' rights case on its hands after a biological father has used the Indian Child Welfare Act to gain custody of his daughter after he initially approved of giving child custody to an adoptive family.

The biological father and mother broke up not long after the mother announced that she was pregnant. The father, who has a Cherokee heritage, moved to another state and was set to be deployed to Iraq. In his absence, the mother, who already had two other children, decided to let a married couple adopt her unborn child. At first, the biological father signed documents approving the adoption, but he later said that he didn't fully understand what the documents meant.

Within five days, the biological father took actions to gain custody of his daughter. In doing so, he referred to the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The high court has a tough decision to make. The South Carolina Supreme Court has already upheld the biological father's parental rights, and his daughter has been living with him for 16 months. She lived with the adoptive parents for about two years. The court is certainly weighing the best interests of the child against the rights of the adoptive parents and the father's parental rights under federal law.

In fact, the justices appear to be split, though oral arguments are not always an accurate indicator of how a Supreme Court judge will decide. Brazos County parents with child custody concerns will have to wait until summer to hear the high court's ruling.

Source: New York Daily News, "Supreme Court hears custody dispute over adopted girl," April 17, 2013

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