American Indians Have Special Paternity Rights’ Protections Under Federal Law

Parental rights of unwed fathers generally vary according to the paternity laws of the various states.

But the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law, provides additional legal protections to biological fathers and their tribes before a child of American Indian heritage may be adopted out.

In addition to any notice which may be required to be given to the biological father, notice must also be given to the official representatives of the appropriate tribe. And the tribal entity has jurisdiction over any child of American Indian heritage.

A Mormon church-affiliated adoption agency reportedly recently facilitated an adoption of a baby whose biological father turned out to have been of Navajo heritage.

The Navajo Nation claims that the agency never contacted them, although the agency allegedly was aware that the baby may have been of Navajo heritage.

When the biological father learned that he had a child who was up for adoption, he filed a petition for custody of the baby. His petition was denied, however.

Read more in this Salt Lake [UT] Tribune article: Navajo Nation disputes adoption.