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Grandmother makes risky choice in child custody fight

When a parent or guardian feels that their child is in danger, it can be difficult to make rational choices. Most people In Florida and across the nation want to take immediate action in order to chart a course and begin moving forward in resolving the problem. In some cases, however, the action that is chosen is one that can further complicate a child custody matter. Such may be the case for a grandmother who has taken her grandchildren across state lines and into a Native American reservation.

The grandmother and her husband have been caring for the two boys for the past three years. They are the adoptive parents of the mother of the boys. The mother has been struggling with addiction for some time, and child protective services workers have opened a case on the family. There have been allegations that the father is abusive, but he has not been formally charged with any form of child abuse.  

In a recent hearing, the father asked for and was granted custody of the boys. This prompted the grandmother to take the children to a reservation of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, of which the biological mother is a member. The grandmother asked the tribal court to grant her emergency guardianship, and was successful.

This move has complicated the child custody case, as state courts do not have the authority to override tribal law. The state judge insists that his order for the grandmother to return the boys to their father would stand, but the case is in limbo as of the time of this report. It is possible that the matter will eventually be heard at the federal level.

For many Florida parents and guardians, the urge to take immediate action to protect a child from harm is easy to relate to. That said, it is important to consider how such actions could complicate a child custody matter. In some cases, a choice is in the best interests of both the children and the parent or guardian. In other instances, however, making an emotionally-fueled decision can actually serve to harm one's case in court.

Source: billingsgazette.com, "Glendive grandmother in custody case hiding out with boys on Northern Cheyenne Reservation", Matthew Brown, Oct. 14, 2015

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