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Native American Parents – Will Florida Let the Tribe Take Your Child?

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 20, 2022

In a recent case, a Florida tribe took a newborn baby from her Native American mother and white father. Could this happen in your family? Read on to learn more.

A Complicated Florida Custody Case

In mid-March, a baby girl was born to a white father and a mother from the Miccosukee tribe. Two days after the birth, the mother and father say that tribal police came to Baptist Hospital in Kendall and removed the baby from their custody.

The case is now being condemned by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who says that the tribal police had no right to “kidnap” the baby from her parents, since the hospital was within the jurisdiction of Miami-Dade County law enforcement.

A judge in the Miccosukee tribe deemed that the maternal grandmother had custody of the baby and the mother’s two other children from a previous relationship. However, in a recent emergency meeting, the tribal judge ordered the maternal grandmother to return the baby to her mother once she follows the court’s safety measures for the child. The maternal grandmother will have custody of the two older children and the mother will have visitation rights.

The mother’s attorney says that the original court order was invalid because it didn’t follow state court rules, and the baby’s name was incorrectly listed on the order.

Hospital officials stated that two police officers arrived with the tribal officers, and that they cooperate with Miami-Dade law enforcement when court orders are enforced.

According to the Miami-Dade Police Department, the officers who accompanied tribe officials were misled, thinking that a federal court order was in place. The case is now under internal review.

The baby’s mother says that the tribal courts granted custody to the maternal grandmother due to false allegations of abuse. However, the baby’s mother believes what’s really happening is that the father is being discriminated against because he is white.

The maternal grandmother’s attorney states that the father and mother have a tumultuous history which included physical abuse of the two older children. The father and mother have denied allegations of abuse and have agreed to raise the baby together even though they are no longer involved.

How Florida Child Custody Law Works

The courts determine child custody based on the child’s best interest according to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. It covers children belonging to parents who are divorcing or who were never married.

Parents can have legal custody, physical custody, or both. Legal custody allows a parent to make decisions about a child’s religious, educational, disciplinary, and medical options. Physical custody determines where the child lives.

The courts will grant a parent either sole custody or joint custody over a child. A parent with sole custody has both legal and physical custody of the child. A parent with join custody, known as shared parental responsibility, shares legal and physical child custody with the other parent. In shared parental responsibility arrangements, one parent is named the primary custodian and the other is granted visitation rights. In general, Florida preferences joint custody.

If you have questions about child custody arrangements or child support payments, contact a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney for help. Our affordable lawyers have experience working with hundreds of couples who have benefited from our legal counsel. Call today for a case review, and we’ll let you know how Florida law applies to your specific situation.