Ohio parents who are going through custody battles may find a recent case out of Montana to be interesting. In the case, a grandmother to two young boys who are members of the North Cheyenne tribe fled to the reservation with them after a state court ordered them to be sent to live with their father.
Reportedly, the grandmother is not a tribal member, although her adopted daughter is. The daughter, who is the mother of the small boys, reportedly had them removed from her care by the Department of Children and Families due to reported drug abuse. The boys had lived with their grandmother for three years since until the father, who lives in Minnesota, filed for custody of them.
The Montana state court ordered the boys turned over to their dad’s custody. The grandmother alleged the father was physically abusive to them. She received a custody order from the tribal court that the children remain in her care. The tribal court indicated the children should not be sent to live with their father due to the potential for abuse. The Montana court asserted jurisdiction, and the woman fled to the reservation with the boys. The reservation is outside of the jurisdiction of the Montana state courts. The state court reacted by filing criminal charges and issuing a $25,000 arrest warrant for the grandmother.
Child custody issues involving children who are tribal members are supposed to be decided through the tribal court system. This is true because jurisdictional battles, such as this one, can arise with two different courts giving differing orders. People who have a child custody dispute involving tribal members may benefit by seeking help from a family law attorney who can fight to remove a case from the state court to the tribal court system.
Source: ABC News, “Woman in custody case hides on reservation with grandsons,” Amy Hanson, Oct. 12, 2015.