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Native American child center of Supreme Court custody appeal

Adopting a child can be the happiest time in a couple's life. Sadly, even finalization of the adoption doesn't always end matters. There can be circumstances under which either of the biological child's parents can step in and dispute issues of child custody. Colorado parents who are considering adoption or who are in the process of adopting a child should know what their rights through each step of the process.

The story began when a woman who was engaged to be married became pregnant. The engagement was subsequently called off, and the father reportedly sent a text message renouncing his parental rights to the child.

The woman gave birth and put the child up for adoption. A Boeing technician and his wife began the adoption process and took custody of the baby on Sept. 15, 2009. The biological father, a military man and member of the Cherokee Nation, learned of the pending adoption as he was being deployed to Iraq and then changed his mind about his parental role.

The biological father challenged the adoption, citing the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. In July 2011, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the biological father. A majority of the five justices ruled that the federal law should take precedence over state law. In a minority opinion, one justice objected to the majority position and said it also defied the prevailing principles of acting in the best interests of the child. The couple relinquished custody to the father and his family at the end of that year. The child was 27 months old.

On Jan. 4, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the couple's appeal of the order of custody granted to the biological father. By the end of June 2013, a decision is expected.

The adoption process can take a long time. Many things can happen along the way. Couples who are seeking to adopt a child must understand the issues, potential pitfalls and their rights in order to protect themselves and the child until the courts make the adoption legally binding. The same can be said for fathers who find their parental rights threatened. In either case, consulting with an attorney is advised.

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

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