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Unique child custody battle to be heard by high court

Anyone who has been through a family law dispute regarding child custody or adoption knows that emotions can run high. After all, a court decision can essentially decide who constitutes a family. Many legal observers are looking to the U.S. Supreme Court to see their ruling on a child custody case that even the judges who ruled on it previously might want to see reversed.

The case involved a South Carolina couple that had raised a girl essentially since her birth. The girl was put up for adoption by her birth mother after the woman and the girl's biological father, who were at one time engaged to be married, broke up. The father apparently renounced his parental rights, though he did so via text message.

The father decided to change his mind when he learned that the girl had been put up for adoption. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, the father is claiming parental rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. This law was established to try to keep Native American children with their families whenever possible. A lower court agreed with him and the child was sent to live with her father and her grandparents.

However, many wonder if it would apply in this case. The girl's birth mother is not Native American. Also, the girl's foster parents, who raised her for more than two years, were praised by state judges as ideal parents even as they ultimately ruled against them. It now will be in the hands of the Supreme Court if they are obligated to follow the Indian Child Welfare Act in this case.

Source: Reuters, "Supreme Court to hear American Indian adoption case," Jonathan Stempel, Jan. 4, 2013

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