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Supreme Court ruling a “win” for adoptive parents

It’s not every day that an adoption case makes the news, but that is just what happened this week when the Supreme Court announced its ruling on a recent spotlight family law case. The case, which involves an ongoing dispute over custody rights between the biological father and the adoptive parents, may make some waves here in Texas as the holding filters back down to state courts.

In the case, the biological father of the child involved is a member of the Cherokee Nation. In 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to help fight practices that saw children separated from their biological family – and the father argued that the law entitled him to reclaim custody of his child. Previously, unbeknownst to the father, the biological mother put the child up for adoption without the father’s knowledge, and the child moved in with the adoptive parents in another state.

The US Supreme Court ruled that the South Carolina Supreme Court’s interpretation of the statute was wrong when it granted custody to the father. Instead, the US Supreme Court ruled that the ICWA does not bar the termination of the biological father’s parental rights and sent the case back to the state court for further proceedings.

As it stands, the outcome appears encouraging for parents in Texas interested in adoption. The interpretation applied by the other state court in this case meant that adoptive parents could not proceed in a legal adoption confidently, as a similar claim could stop the adoption in its tracks.

Of course, not all adoptions will face this type of legal question – but every adoption does involve some level of legal action. For that reason, it may be important for Houston families interested in welcoming a new child to work with an experienced attorney to understand the possible issues so that the process may run as smoothly as possible.

Source: NBC News, “Supreme Court rules for couple over baby adoption,” Tracy Jarrett, June 25, 2013

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