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Child custody can be confusing in Georgia

Child custody is a touchy subject all over the United States. Georgia is no exception. A 27-month-old girl, who had been living with adoptive parents in South Carolina since her birth, was sent to live with her biological father about 18 months ago. Recently, a Supreme Court decision about child custody was made that will likely return the little girl to her adoptive parents.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that, in this case, the Indian Child Welfare Act does not protect the father's rights to his biological child. Purportedly, the little girl was conceived while her mother and father were engaged. However, prior to her birth, her non-Indian mother ended the engagement. The child's mother requested that the American Indian father choose between paying child support and giving up his rights, he chose to relinquish the rights to his child.

However, when the child's mother gave her up for adoption, her biological father changed his mind. He hired an attorney to sue for custody. The child's adoptive parents are a non-Indian couple.

A local court granted the father custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act. Because the man is American Indian, he was granted rights to this child who is 1.2 percent Cherokee Indian. However, had he not been Indian, he would have no rights to this child whatsoever. The ruling in the lower court sent the child to live with her father for a time. However, earlier this month the Supreme Court reversed that ruling, asserting that the language of the law states "continued custody of the child,' thus referring to a parent already having had custody of the child, but has had that custody removed.

Whether in reference to adoptive parents, step parents or biological parents, child custody issues can be a source of great contention. Georgia parents owe it to their children to put his or her best interests at heart. In some cases, putting a child's best interest at heart means asserting oneself in a court of law, this is especially true where child custody is concerned.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Indian dad loses child custody case," Kate Irby, June 26, 2013

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