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American Indian child custody issues in Florida

Child custody cases are often the most difficult legal battles that anyone will ever face. Custody matters are complicated enough when the fight is between two parents who are unable to agree on how to divide parenting time and duties. However, there are certain child custody cases, in Florida and elsewhere, in which the complexity of the case is intensified. An example is found in a recent custody battle following the tragic death of both parents.

The mother and father, both in their mid-20s, were killed in a horrific head-on collision involving a suspected drunk driver. That series of events left their three children orphans. Now, two sets of relatives are fighting over who will have the right to raise the three girls. Adding a further layer of complexity is the fact that the children were Native American, which brings the Indian Child Welfare Act into the mix.

In a recent hearing, a judge ruled that an aunt and uncle should retain temporary custody of all three girls. However, the other family members argue that because they are members of a Native American tribe, the custody case should be heard in a tribal court. However, the judge in the initial hearing pointed out that the children never resided on tribal land and that their current caretakers had been caring for the girls since the tragic death of their parents.

This case has the potential to develop into a long and difficult child custody battle. In recent years, many cases involving the Indian Child Welfare Act have led to legal challenges, with varying outcomes. Many parents in Florida and elsewhere believe that the ICWA is an outdated law that is no longer relevant to current social and cultural practices. Others feel strongly that children of Native American descent should be raised by people who share their heritage. Cases like this one will continue to add to the debate on the issue.

Source: fresnobee.com, "A crash killed their parents. Now they're caught in a fight over custody and tribal rights", Pablo Lopez, Oct. 29, 2016

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