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Child custody case could end up in federal court

An unusual custody battle has made headlines in Texas and across the nation, and it could end up being decided in a federal court. The matter involves a parent and grandparent struggling over child custody rights to two small boys. The fact that the mother of the children is a registered member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe adds a layer of complexity to the case.

The two boys were placed in the care of their grandmother three years ago. At that time, the mother of the children, who is the adopted daughter of the grandmother, was struggling with addiction and unable to care for the boys. The father of the children is alleged to have abused both the mother and the children. Those claims were not substantiated, however, and, when he recently approached the court and asked for custody of the boys, his request was granted.

Believing that the children would be at risk of harm in their father's care, the grandmother asked the Northern Cheyenne tribal court to grant her emergency custody. She was successful, and she took the boys to a reservation nearly 180 miles away from the family's home. That action removed her from the jurisdiction of the state court, which had granted the father an emergency custody order.

It is unclear how this child custody matter will be resolved. As of the time of this report, there is a warrant issued for the grandmother for custodial interference, but she is appealing the state court's custody determination, claiming that the tribal court's ruling should stand. The father has the option of appealing the tribal court's decision. The case is not expected to move forward until the matter of jurisdiction has been resolved. In the interim, parents and guardians in Texas and elsewhere should be wary of assuming care of a child without gaining the legal right to maintain custody.

Source:, "Grandmother in custody case, boys hide on Indian reservation", Amy Beth Hanson, Oct. 15, 2015

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