Question Presented: The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, 25 U.S.C. 1901–1963, applies to state custody proceedings involving an Indian child. State courts of last resort are divided on the following critical question, a question that likely affects thousands of adoption proceedings each year, and on which this court granted certiorari but did not reach in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 133 S. Ct. 2552, 2560 (2013): Does the Indian Child Welfare Act define “parent” in 25 U.S.C. 1903(9) to include an unwed biological father who has not complied with state law rules to attain legal status as a parent?
History: Petition was filed on 12/29/17.
Ruling below: In the Matter of the Adoption of B.B. 2017 WL 3821741 Supreme Court of Utah. The Supreme Court, Himonas, J., held that: 1) birth father was a parent under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and had right to notice and to intervene in the adoption proceedings; 2) birth father had custody of child under the ICWA; 3) adoption proceedings were involuntary, not voluntary, as to birth father; and in an opinion by Lee, Associate C.J., 4) trial court’s order accepting birth mother’s consent to child’s adoption under the ICWA and terminating her parental rights was not properly presented to the Supreme Court for review; and 5) any defect in the timing of birth mother’s consent to adoption of child did not deprive trial court of subject-matter jurisdiction. Reversed and remanded.