Tomorrow, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral argument in the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.
Though family law is traditionally an area of state law, this case comes to the Supreme Court under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. The case concerns the adoption of a child born to a mother who is not an American Indian and a father who is member of the Cherokee Nation. All parties concede that these circumstances make the child an “Indian child” for purposes of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Though the father had texted the mother prior to the child’s birth that he would relinquish his parental rights, when he learned, approximately four months after the birth of the child, that the mother had consented to the child’s adoption, father sought a stay of the adoption proceedings and began an action to establish paternity. The Supreme Court will have to decide whether the father can block the adoption under the Indian Child Welfare Act based on his biological connection and acknowledgment of paternity, but no custodial status, and his status as a member of the Cherokee Nation. SCOTUSBlog has a thorough argument preview here.