Articles Posted in Adoption

home-1389111-m.jpgThe child custody dispute between “Baby Veronica’s” biological father – who is part Cherokee — and her adoptive parents may finally be coming to a much-anticipated close. After the United States Supreme Court rendered its decision this past June, essentially restoring the young child to her adoptive family’s home, her biological father refused to cooperate and hand over the girl. Because of this, she remained in Oklahoma with the Cherokee Nation, who insisted that the child would remain with the tribe. However, just last week, yet another court heard the dispute. The Oklahoma Supreme Court dissolved a temporary court order leaving the child with her father and his family.

Unfortunately for parents, and especially for the children involved, child custody battles can be prolonged and bring out the worst in people. One would expect and hope that each parent is arguing over custody issues because they want to spend as much time as possible with their children. But at the core of these disputes, is typically an innocent child who simply wants the matter to be worked out, and as quickly as possible. The case mentioned above has been drawn out for two years, with the young child being moved around between families. If you are faced with a potential child custody dispute or issue of any kind, it is important to contact a local San Diego family law attorney as early in the proceedings as possible. An experienced attorney can help ease you through the process, protect your rights and try to achieve what would be in the best interests of your children.

In an earlier blog post, we reported on the facts of the case and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. Essentially, Baby Veronica was living with a family from her birth until she was 27 months old when her biological father was awarded custody based on the1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (federal law). The intent of the law was to make it more difficult for American Indian children to be taken from their families. The Court had to decide whether the law should be applied when it appeared to conflict with state law in South Carolina (where the custody dispute originated). The Court held that the federal law did not require the child to be returned to her father, finding that the statute did not apply to this case, since the Indian parent did not actually have custody of the child at any point in time.
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193524_hands.jpgChild custody disputes are as diverse as our society; there is no such thing as one size fits all. While some of the issues may be similar and familiar, each family brings to the table a unique set of facts and preconceived notions about how the proceedings will unfold. Add to the mix the fact that laws and court procedures vary from place to place, and the conflict may seem overwhelming. A dedicated family lawyer can help. If you are faced with a child custody issue, it is important to contact, as soon as possible, a San Diego family law attorney with extensive experience handling such matters.

In a recent case, the United States Supreme Court was asked to decide the familial fate of an American Indian child, who had been adopted by an American family when she just a baby. Prior to the girl’s birth, the biological father gave up his parental rights. The biological mother then allowed a couple from South Carolina to adopt the baby girl. Just four months after her birth, the biological father (an American Indian) had a change of heart and sought custody of the baby, asserting that he did not know that his former fiancée planned to put the child up for adoption.

The parents who were in the process of legally adopting the baby had been raising her for 27 months when the South Carolina courts ruled that the biological father could have custody of his daughter. For the last 18 months, the child (who is almost four years-old), has been living with her biological father. The state courts found that both families provided the girl with loving and safe homes. At issue in the case was the interplay between federal and state laws concerning parental rights. The question was whether the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (federal law) should be applied when it appeared to conflict with state law in South Carolina.

According to an article in the New York Times, the federal law’s aim is to make it more difficult for American Indian children to be taken from their families. If only South Carolina law applied to the case, the child would have remained with the adoptive parents, but that state’s courts ruled that the biological father’s parental rights under the federal law overrode state law.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court, however, concluded that the federal law did not require the child to be returned to her father, holding that the statute did not apply to this case, noting that the Indian parent did not have custody of the child at any point in time. Instead, at least one Justice indicated that the purpose of the law was to prevent the unwarranted removal of Indian children from their families. Here, the biological Indian parent never had custody of his daughter. The court found that the federal law was not meant to apply to a custody dispute where an Indian child’s adoption is lawfully and voluntarily initiated by a non-Indian parent with sole custody rights.

While this case did not emanate from the San Diego courts, the decision could still serve as precedent under similar facts in a California custody dispute. A local family law attorney can help parents with any custody issues they may be facing.
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Parents often struggle with child custody matters, even though both parties typically want what is best for the child. Complications inevitably arise. In this case, two women in a same-sex relationship, who never registered as domestic partners in any state, adopted a child from Russia, and then later separated. If you have questions about a child custody matter, you are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney in San Diego to assist you in protecting your rights.

In 2007, Beth C. and Marcia B. began looking to adopt a boy from Russia. Marcia B. was the only one registered as the adoptive parent because (1) Russia did not permit adoption by same sex couples, and (2) Beth was concerned about a DUI arrest on her record that could affect their chances of adopting.

After Marcia B. officially adopted Egor, whose name was changed to Ian B., Beth C. initiated the process to adopt him. The three moved from Illinois to New York, delaying the adoption process, which was never finalized. While the couple were in a relationship, Beth C. was a “stay at home” mom, caring for Ian B. and introducing him as her son. She took him to doctor appointments and Ian B. called her “mommy.” Marcia B. worked full time.

In August 2008, Beth C. and Marcia B. ended their relationship. They were living in Indiana at the time and continued living together until Ian B. finished kindergarten the following year. At the end of the school year, the couple agreed that Ian B. should move to California with Beth C. to live with her parents. Over the next 18 months, Marcia B. visited with Ian B. for several weeks each year, while Beth C. enrolled him in school in California, was listed as his mother in his medical records and introduced Ian B. as her son.

In February 2011, Marcia B. took Ian B. from Beth C.’s residence and did not bring him back. Marcia B. obtained a custody order restricting Beth C.’s visitation rights, who then filed a petition to establish her legal parentage. Both parents agreed to a bench trial to resolve whether Beth C. was Ian B.’s legal parent under the Family Code, section 7611, subdivision (d).
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