Native American Man Loses Custody to Adoptive Parents

An East Coast court has denied a petition to re-hear a contentious custody case, cementing the decision about the daughter of a Native American man. The child custody battle occurred between the 3-year-old girl’s biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and her white adoptive parents.

Reports show the girl’s biological father had surrendered his parental rights shortly before the girl was born. He soon began to seek full custody rights, however, after he learned that the child’s mother planned to put her up for adoption. A lower court initially ruled the adoption should be voided under the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act, an existing piece of legislation designed to keep Native American families together. This case was presented before the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices made the final decision that the adoption was legal because the man surrendered his parental rights before the child was even born.

Ultimately, the adoptive parents have been named as the child’s legal guardians, despite the courtroom maneuvers of her biological father. Additional petitions to the South Carolina Supreme Court have fallen on deaf ears, with justices choosing to defer to the nation’s highest court rather than re-hearing the case.

Attorneys for the biological father say the case showcases the inability of the higher courts to fully consider the welfare of the young girl. The Cherokee Nation intends to continue to fight the legal decision, with representatives characterizing the child as an “Oklahoma child” who should be brought home to her native land.

In this case, it seems as though the biological father has exhausted all of his legal options. The case has been heard before the highest court in the nation, after all. However, some additional rights must be considered in connection with the Indian Child Welfare Act, so the man could still gain custody of his daughter. If you are struggling with a similar custody battle, consider seeking the services of a qualified Maryland family attorney.

Source:, “S.C. high court moves to end saga of ‘Baby Veronica’” Hansi Lo Wang, Jul. 24, 2013

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