A complicated case involving jurisdictional issues between tribal and state courts may interest people in California. In the case, a woman has taken her two grandsons to live on a North Cheyenne reservation in Montana following a state court's order that the children be sent to live with their father in Minnesota.
According to reports, the children and the children's mother are tribal members, but their grandmother is not. The grandmother adopted the children's mother, and the mother had her children taken away due to allegations of substance abuse. The father obtained an order in the state court that the children be placed under his custody. The grandmother argued the placement was inappropriate due to his alleged history of physical abuse. When the court ordered her to send them to live in Minnesota, she instead fled to the reservation, which is not subject to Montana's state laws.
On the reservation, a tribal court found that the children should not be in the custody of their father due to the abuse allegations. The man is not a member of the tribe. The tribal court and the grandmother are arguing that the state court should never have taken jurisdiction of the case. Currently, the state court has a $25,000 warrant out for the grandmother's arrest and has filed criminal charges against her.
A custody dispute involving children who are tribal members is normally decided through the tribal court system. This case illustrates exactly the type of issues that can arise when both a tribe and a state assert jurisdiction over a child custody case. People who are involved in a custody dispute that involves tribal members may want to seek help from a family law attorney.
Source: ABC News, "Woman in custody case hides on reservation with grandsons," Amy Hanson, Oct. 12, 2015.