U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS sides with adoptive couple, says Indian Child Welfare Act doesn't apply


In a bitter custody dispute between a South Carolina adoptive couple and a child’s Native American birth father, the U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the adoptive parents. In Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion (PDF), he states that the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was enacted to prevent the “wholesale removal of Indian children from their homes,” does not apply in this case.

The court held that although the biological father—who had reportedly initially sent the pregnant biological mother a text message giving up parental rights before the child’s birth—was a member of the Cherokee Nation, the ICWA did not apply.

“(The ICWA)—which conditions involuntary termination of parental rights with respect to an Indian child on a showing that remedial efforts have been made to prevent the ‘breakup of the Indian family’ is inapplicable when, as here, the parent abandoned the Indian child before birth and never had custody of the child,” Alito wrote.

The court ordered the South Carolina State Supreme Court’s decision in favor of the biological father be reversed. The ultimate placement of the child, who was taken from the adoptive couple at the age 27 months and has been living with her biological father since 2011, is uncertain.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissent in the case, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. She was joined in full by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, and in part by Justice Antonin Scalia, who also filed a dissenting opinion.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court to Hear Adoption Case Involving Baby Veronica and American Indian Dad”

SCOTUSblog: “Details: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl”

Charleston City Paper: “U.S. Supreme Court reverses S.C. court in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, siding with James Island couple”

Reuters: “Supreme Court rule for couple over baby girl’s adoption”

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