Much of the time, when this blog is talking about child custody, it is in the context of a mother and father divorcing. Georgia’s child custody laws must do more than just deal with married and divorcing parents, however. What happens, for example, when a mother and father are not married? Does the mother automatically get custody? What would the father have to do to get custody? All of these questions are case specific and require careful consultation with an experienced family law attorney.

One question that has come to the public’s attention recently is whether unmarried mothers can give children up for adoption without getting the fathers’ approval. The case that has brought this to a head also involves important questions of federal Native American law.

Georgia residents may remember that earlier this year, the Supreme Court of the United States decided a case in which the biological father of a child was arguing that he should have custody of his daughter because, as a member of the Cherokee tribe, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act prevented a white couple from adopting her. The girl’s biological mother gave her up for adoption without apparently telling the father of her plans.

The Supreme Court ruled that the adoption was valid and that the biological father could not use the Indian Child Welfare Act to gain custody of his daughter because he did not have custody when she was originally adopted. Despite this ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court recently issued an order delaying the return of the young girl to her adoptive parents.

There is no getting around the fact that this case is complex and a lot of people have an emotional stake in the outcome, but that is how most family law cases are, all the more reason to work with an experienced attorney from the outset.

Source: CNN, “New twist in Native American child custody dispute,” Bill Mears, Sept. 3, 2013