Child Custody and the Indian Child Welfare Act

According to News 4 Jax, two missing girls from Michigan were found safe and sound in Atlantic Beach last month after having been kidnapped by their mother.

When the mother was apprehended she was with the two girls who had been reported missing as well as her one-year-old daughter from another relationship. The five-year-old and eight-year-old girls were returned to their father, but the custodial future of the mother's infant child remains uncertain. After the mother was taken into police custody in connection with the kidnapping, her one-year-old daughter was placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) as the mother claims that she does not know who the baby girl's father is. While child custody cases involving a single parent who is locked up are not exactly unusual, this child custody case has a twist as the mother has Native American lineage. Therefore, under the Indian Child Welfare Act the mother's tribe in Michigan may have first rights to child custody in this case.

The Indian Child Welfare Act

The National Indian Child Welfare Association's website indicates that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 is a federal law designed to keep Indian American children with Indian American families. Before the ICWA was passed, Congress was alarmed at the high number of Indian American children who were being removed from their family homes by public and private agencies. Although these children were being removed in order to protect their best interests, many were subsequently placed with non-Indian American families. In order to slow this trend and to "protect the best interests of Indian American children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families" the ICWA sets out requirements that apply to child custody hearings involving Indian American children. Most notably, the ICWA allows the child's tribe to be involved in the custody hearing. Additionally, an Indian American parent or a tribe can petition to transfer jurisdiction of the custody case to their own tribal court.

Need Legal Advice?

Every child custody case is unique, therefore, it is crucial to employ a family law attorney who is sensitive to the individual needs of your family. Attorney Michael A. Robbins has over thirty years of experience practicing family law in Michigan and would be happy to put his expertise to work for you. Contact our Bloomfield Hills office today to schedule your initial consultation.