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June 26th, 2013
10:03 AM ET

Justices rule for adoptive couple in Native-American custody dispute

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court sided on Tuesday with adoptive parents in a divisive custody fight over a Native American child after the biological father asserted his parental rights.

The justices, by a 5-4 margin, said the adoption by a white couple was proper and did not intrude on the federal rights of the father, a registered member of the Cherokee tribe, over where his daughter, Veronica, 3, would live.

The court said the father could not rely on the Indian Child Welfare Act for relief because he never had legal or physical custody at the time of adoption proceedings, which were initiated by the birth mother without his knowledge.

Justice Samuel Alito said when "the adoption of an Indian child is voluntarily and lawfully initiated by a non-Indian parent with sole custodial rights, the (law's) primary goal of preventing unwarranted removal of Indian children and the dissolution of Indian families is not implicated."

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Filed under: Ethnicity • Family • How we live • Native Americans
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. JBug

    Someone at the agency did NOT DO THEIR HOMEWORK, and as a native who has tried to adopt NATIVE, it is WRONG! There has to be an effort to adopt a NATIVE child to a NATIVE family. And as a NATIVE, being CHEROKEE is a JOKE! But NOT as much of a JOKE as a SOCIAL WORKER doing the RIGHT THING, and obeying the LAW, and choosing what is RIGHT for the CHILD!!!

    July 22, 2013 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. julie

    What this article fails to mention is that the biological father has been fighting for legal custody since Veronica was a baby, that the adoption never offically was completed by the Copabiancas, that the biological father has had custody of Veronica for the past 2 years and the Cobabiancas have had no contact with her for 2 years except for a single phone call. She was taken away from the Cobabiancas when she was barely two and given back to her real father. She doesn't even know who the Copabiancas are!

    July 9, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • JW Adams

      This bum signed his rights away before the child was born, hoping he would not have to pay child support and now he wants to make a little money with her

      July 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
      • None

        @JWmAdams I highly doubt that. A natural father rarely ever makes any money off of living with their child. The fact that an adoptive couple has priority over a natural father is very, very disturbing.

        July 14, 2013 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
      • wayaetsi

        Do you realize how crazy this sounds? He didn't want to pay child support so he has fought for custody and had her the last two years. Taken care of her this whole time. When a military person goes over seas they sign custody to the other parent. THATS what they had him believe he was signing.

        July 19, 2013 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  3. SoCalApril

    I don't know why articles forget to mention something very important – this child is only 1% native...1%, I am willing to bet there are people commenting on here that are much more native than this child that means she is only 3/256th native...she is more Asian, Hispanic and white than native...that is important to note.

    July 9, 2013 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Lucas

      it doesnt matter what percent she is... the blood quantum is continued oppression

      July 9, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
      • Avilamo

        Blood quantum is enforced by tribes.

        July 12, 2013 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
      • Lucas

        BIA enforces blood quantum. There is plenty of examples of Tribal members (with low blood degree) who are more "indian" than members who are near full blood. Being native is not the percent of blood you have. its a way of life

        July 15, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
      • drowlord

        I don't see how that's logical. With just 46 chromosomes, it becomes statistically likely that a person with 1% heritage has no native DNA whatsoever. This is discrete math - without some unusual factors, you can't inherit half or quarter of a chromosome. Going back 8 generations to 256 ancestors, more than 200 will not be represented at all in the child's DNA.

        July 15, 2013 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  4. New Salt

    I believe the father signed away his rights prior to the child's birth assuming the biological mother would raise her. Although he was unaware of the adoption, he was not unaware of the child, and had already declined to be responsible for her.

    July 7, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Danny

    For everyone crying for an appeal, it isn't going to happen. Read the flipping story before you spout off. This was a ruling from the supreme court, thus, there is nowhere to appeal it too.

    July 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Humberto

    hestâhpó'hanoto.

    July 5, 2013 at 5:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. Humberto

    Alito is NJ White Trash. The Child is of Indian decent, yet White Trash Alito would lie and obstruct justice concerning Federal laws that apply to Indian Children who were not to be placed by state social welfare people who tried to hide the child's American Indian heritage and all that goes with it, that was dine for a fee.

    July 5, 2013 at 5:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. Old Salt

    Finally, some real common sense from Alito.

    June 30, 2013 at 4:40 am | Report abuse |
  9. Denver_mike

    No they wouldn't. He had no custody when the adoption was made, thus the adoption was legal, and binding. But you are right In the fact that naive blood shouldn't count for anything, and I mean anything. Any benefit garnered from race, are stolen from someone else. Looking at race fr anything, is racist

    July 7, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JW Adams

    Her real parents do not want her get it yet? her father signed his rights away before birth

    July 10, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Denver_mike

    Injustice? Where was this (man) before the adoption. I might have misinterpreted, but it seems to me that if he was not in the child s life before adoption, then he has no rights now.

    July 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. B

    The problem is, in states such as South Dakota (where I live), the government has been less than fair about placing Native American children. If there is a problem in a child's birth family, the child is most often removed and sent to live with a white family. The purpose of the Indian Child Welfare Act is to ensure that Native children retain their culture by living with Native families whenever possible. This is a BIG deal, as many tribes are dwindling away and traditional life is being forgotten. Many adult Natives struggle because they grew up not belonging anywhere – no tribe to embrace them, and white culture wasn't embracing them, either. Safeguards are necessary to ensure that our government doesn't overstep when it comes to placing children in foster care or in adoptive families. It DID happen here in South Dakota, and it was wrong, and I'm glad the Indian Child Welfare Act exists.

    July 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sunnyaz

    I agree. With the history of native americans thus far, this child has a better chance at life with the adopted parents.

    July 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |