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Family court awards child custody to Indian tribe

People in Montgomery, Tennessee, may have heard stories regarding disputes over the custody of a child, fought between the two parents, one of whom is a Native American tribal member. Recognized tribes in the United States exist as sovereign nations and have their own framework for various criminal and civil matters. A recent family court ruling demonstrated this sovereignty in a family law matter.

According to a court in another state, a 2-year-old girl was allegedly being kept illegally on the Yamassee Nation tribal reservation, in a neighboring state, by her supposed father. The court ordered the child to be taken from the reservation and returned to her mother. In accordance with that mandate, the local police in the tribal region carried out a raid on the reservation but could not find the child or the supposed father, who is also the chief of his tribe.

However, a family court in the neighboring state identified a technical error in the court order by the other state and determined that it had no value. According to the supposed father's attorney, the order is also invalid because both the father and the child are Native Americans and state laws cannot interfere in their legal matters. This is in line with federal statutes, which supposedly grant "judicial sovereignty" to the Yamassee Tribe.

Child custody disputes are often seen among separating parents in Tennessee. In Clarksville, judges in the state attempt to devise a fifty-fifty plan pact for the custody of the child. However, in other counties, judges prefer to have one primary custodian and grants visitation rights to the other parent.

Whether the issue is among Native Americans or other groups, child custody disputes are often a critical part of many divorce battles. In such cases, it is necessary to ensure that a parent does not lose out on spending valuable time with his or her child.

Source: WRDW-TV, "Local Indian tribe wins battle in child custody case," Chad Mills, Jan. 13, 2014

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