Articles Posted in Native American Law

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The maternal grandparents and guardians of Child (together, Grandparents) filed a petition to adopt Child, alleging that Mother had consented to the adoption, that Father had abandoned Child, and that terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights was in Child’s best interests. Father, a non-Indian, answered, alleging that Child was an “Indian child” under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA). Neither party disputed that Child met the definition of “Indian child” under those acts. The county court applied both acts, which provide heightened protection to the rights of parents and tribes in proceedings involving adoption of Indian children. Following a hearing, the county court denied the petition because it was unable to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Father had abandoned Child. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) although the ICWA and NICWA apply to this adoption proceeding, not every provision of ICWA and NICWA applies to a non-Indian parent; (2) the county court erred in applying a higher standard of proof to the abandonment element of the NICWA; and (3) the county court erred in finding that Grandparents were not required to show “active efforts” had been made to unite Father and Child. View "In re Adoption of Micah H." on Justia Law

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The juvenile court found Tavian B. to be a child who lacks proper parental care by reason of the fault or habits of his parents and to be in a situation dangerous to life or limb or injurious to his health or morals. The State subsequently filed a motion to terminate the parental rights of both parents. Father filed a motion to transfer jurisdiction to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Juvenile Court pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Before the juvenile court ruled on Father’s motion to transfer, the State withdrew its motion to terminate parental rights. Thereafter, the juvenile court concluded that good cause existed to overrule Father’s motion to transfer jurisdiction to the tribal court because the proceedings were in “an advanced stage.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State did not meet its burden of establishing good cause to deny transfer to tribal court, and therefore, the district court abused its discretion in denying Appellant’s motion to transfer. View "In re Interest of Tavian B." on Justia Law

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Mother was an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. After Jassenia, who was allegedly eligible for enrollment in the tribe, was removed from Mother’s care, the State filed a petition for adjudication pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a). At issue before the juvenile court was whether the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applied to the adjudication proceeding. The juvenile court determined that ICWA applied to the proceedings. Jassenia’s guardian ad litem appealed, asserting that Mother’s intent to relinquish custody of Jassenia rendered ICWA inapplicable. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the juvenile court’s order did not constitute a final, appealable order because the mere determination that ICWA applied, without further action, did not affect a substantial right. View "In re Interest of Jassenia H." on Justia Law

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Father had custody of his three minor children that were “Indian children” within the meaning of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA). The children were adjudicated as being within Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a) because they lacked proper parental care. The juvenile court determined that it was in the children’s best interests for Father to have only physical custody and awarded legal custody of the children to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The court of appeals reversed, holding that the juvenile court erred by not addressing at the dispositional hearing whether the State made “active efforts,” as required by ICWA/NICWA, to return the children’s legal custody to Father. The State appealed, arguing that the “active efforts” standard did not apply to the disposition in this case, but rather, the “reasonable efforts” standard applicable in cases involving non-Indian children applied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that at any point in an involuntary juvenile proceeding involving Indian children at which a party is required to demonstrate its efforts to reunify or prevent the breakup of the family, the “active efforts” standard of ICWA/NICWA applies. View "In re Interest of Shayla H." on Justia Law

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Mother's two Indian children, both minors, were placed in foster care by a separate juvenile court. After the State filed a motion to terminate parental rights, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska sought to transfer the proceedings to the Omaha Tribal Court pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act. The juvenile court denied the request, finding that the motions were filed at an "advanced stage" of the juvenile proceedings. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no basis for a determination that the motions to transfer these cases to tribal court were filed at an advanced stage of the proceedings to terminate parental rights, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in affirming the separate juvenile court's denial of the motions on this ground. Remanded with directions to sustain the motions to transfer the cases to the Omaha Tribal Court. View "In re Zylena R." on Justia Law