Oklahoma Couple Files Federal Suit Challenging State Indian Child Welfare Act

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Late this past summer, a couple from Oklahoma recently filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s Indian Child Welfare Act.

The couple is challenging the constitutionality of portions of the law, which permits Native American tribes to intervene in voluntary, private adoption cases that involve children of Native American birth.

Tribal Law in Adoption Cases

In Oklahoma, state law permits Native American tribes to intervene in adoption cases that involve children of Native American birth. The law even goes so far as to protect the right to intervene, even if the child’s birth parents oppose tribal intervention and mutually agree on adoptive parents for their child.

According to attorneys, the adoptive couple filing the suit maintains that an adoption involving Native American children should be treated as any other adoption in the state of Oklahoma, including a right to privacy, especially in voluntary adoption cases. The adopting couple, believe that the law violates their constitutional rights to due process, in addition to their rights of equal protection under state and national law.

While the couple’s claim argues the constitutionality of the law, counsel representing the Cherokee Nation recently stated that the tribe’s interest in adoption cases is based in a vested interest in their heritage and its citizens, not unlike the interests that state lawmakers have for the residents of Oklahoma.

Specifically, lawyers for the Cherokee Nation stated that the long history that prompted the Indian Child Welfare Act, namely the continuous removal of children from their tribes and families, is a factor in the defense.

Chrissi Nimmo, who serves as assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, recently noted that, when adoption cases arise that involve Native American children, the Cherokee Nation is invested in working with birth parents to find any prospective adoptive parents of Native American descent, prior to other arrangements being made.

Nimmo also noted that the state Supreme Court has, in the past, upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The Current Case

The claim uses fictitious aliases to protect the privacy of the birth and adoptive parents, but does note that the birth father is not, nor has he ever, followed tribal traditions. The claim also indicates that one of the adoptive parents in the case, the father, is currently enrolled in a Native American Tribe.

Adoption Cases in Oklahoma

When considering adoption, an individual or a couple will face a number of questions. Not only is the process long and complicated, but the outcome may also be uncertain. Ultimately, courts in adoption cases want to make sure of one thing – that the adoptive parents can and will make the necessary sacrifices that will help make their child’s life the best that it can be.

While the adoption ‘proves’ can be fairly straightforward, many first time parents face anxiety, especially regarding the complexities of state law. Although many cases see birth parents and adoptive parents reach a mutual and amicable agreement without any legal action, many parents-to-be prefer the advice and peace of mind that only family attorneys can offer.

In any adoption case, the adoptive parents need to file an official Petition for Adoption with their state court. At this stage, the court will want to see that prospective parents understand that they are legally agreeing to assume the parenting rights of the adopted child, and that they understand all that being a parent carries with it.

Courts require appropriate documentation that demonstrates a person(s) ability to successfully parent.

Like any legal process, adoption cases may face their share of hurdles. State law regarding adoption in Oklahoma is quite clear, and includes thorough background checks and pre-placement home studies.

In Oklahoma, there are family attorneys who specialize in representing parents-to-be in adoption cases. If you or someone that you love is currently considering adopting a child in the state of Oklahoma, it is important that you consult with a family law attorney, who can give you the sound legal advice and support that you need while working to make your dreams of a family a reality.

At Rick Dane Moore and Associates Law Firm, our attorneys are well-versed in the nuances of family law, and specialize in representing clients in tribal law cases as well. Our family law team has more than 30 years of combined experience, and has previously helped clients successfully adopt children into their homes. We understand that your dreams of a family are important, so our attorneys are committed to being your support and advocate every step of the way.

We welcome your call today. To discuss your adoption claim with one of our family attorneys, call us at (405) 366-0373.

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