Child custody matters are complex. There are a substantial number of considerations courts need to take when making rulings.

As a recent case suggests, federal law is one such consideration.

Federal law and the placement of Native American children

A few months ago, a family from Fort Worth, while battling for custody of a child, challenged the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The child’s biological father was Cherokee, and the mother was Navajo. Since this family seeking adoption was a non-Native American family, the ICWA potentially impacted their ability to obtain custody.

According to a kut.org posting, the child in question was offered or adoption through foster care placement. Under the ICWA, Native American families were the preferred choice when it came to the adoption of Native American children.

A Texas district court ruled in this matter that the ICWA was unconstitutional because it discriminated based upon race. However, as kgou.org reports, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s ruling. The appellate court felt that it was important to place Native American children with the appropriate tribe as these are “unique sovereign entities” rather than “members of a racial group.”

Factors to consider in child custody cases

Regardless of the circumstances, courts must factor in what is in the best interest of the child. This means placing the child in an environment that is safe and will meet the child’s health, educational, and emotional needs.

It is important in child custody matters for legal counsel to pay close attention to the facts of the case in making their arguments. Every child has unique needs, and courts must look at the individual circumstances of the matter. What may be appropriate in one case will not necessarily be appropriate in another. An incorrect determination could end up hurting the child.

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