The United States Supreme Court has ruled on a complex family law and adoption dispute that brought into conflict state and federal law, and also took into consideration the rights of adoptive parents versus the rights of the biological father. As occurs with any ruling made by the Supreme Court, it will affect the way child custody matters are conducted in every state including Texas.

The 5-4 ruling of the Supreme Court essentially negated the judgments of two lower court opinions and has sent the child custody matter back to one particular state court to be heard once again. The lower court rulings had determined that a child of American Indian descent should be placed in the custody of the biological father due to the passage of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. However, the Supreme Court ruling once again provides hope to the adoptive parents that they will be granted primary custody of the child.

As in so many child custody matters, the circumstances of this case are particularly sad.  The biological mother of the child apparently had agreed to allow the adoptive parents to take custody of the child.  The mother, in turn, was paid $10,000 and expenses as a part of this agreement.  The biological father, however, appears to have objected to such an arrangement and then sought custody of the child through the courts.

With adoptive parents and a biological father who all wished to care for the child, what is sometimes overlooked in these disputes what is in the best interest of the child.  In some instances that could be placing the child in the sole custody of the mother, the sole custody of the father, a joint custody arrangement or in the custody of some other party or parties that may be better able to care for the child.  However, care does need to be taken because a child can become unintentionally harmed if deprived of the right to see her biological father or mother.

Family law attorneys should look to strike an agreement where, above all else, the needs of the child are met.  In some cases, such determinations are not easy to come by.

Source: Indian Country, “Supreme Court Rules 5-4 In Favor of Capobiancos in Baby Veronica case,” June 25, 2013