Menu
menu
News and Resources

Child Custody Dispute Pits Grandparents’ Rights Against Federal Powers

Encinitas Child Custody Grandparents Rights
Image Source

Encinitas, CA – An unusual child custody case made headlines in March when local police in Southern Florida seized infant girl Ingrid Johnson from her mother’s care in the hospital. What happened was truly an abuse of law enforcement capacity but this case raises a lot of questions regarding grandparent rights in child custody as well as the issue of state/federal jurisdiction vs. tribal law.

The Miccosukee tribe in the Everglades of Florida is its own incorporated nation, thus they have their own court system and law enforcement on their reservation. The baby’s Indian mother, Rebecca Sanders, arrived to the hospital with her mother, Betty Osceola. When the baby was born, her Caucasian father, Justin Johnson came to the hospital with full consent from Ms. Sanders. However, Ms. Sanders’s mother was less than thrilled with him. Two days later, tribal police showed up at the hospital with a court order initiated by the child’s grandmother. They were to seize the baby from the mother’s custody on grounds that her partner (the child’s father) was abusive. The grandmother was reportedly against her daughter’s relationship with the Caucasian man and did not want her grandchild raised by him.

The couple did have an episode of filed domestic abuse in the past, but it was quickly dropped. The restraining order Ms. Sanders once filed against the baby’s father, she maintains, was something she was pressured into by her mom.

The tribal police arrived at the hospital, where the staff complied with yielding the child. Backup police from outside the tribe were called to assist. They were told by Miccosukee police that they were following a federal order. It was, of course, a tribal order and tribal police may only patrol the reservation and property belonging to their tribe.

The baby remained in the custody of the grandmother for some time, while her horrified parents filed complaints, and eventually, a lawsuit. The exact whereabouts of the grandmother were unknown for a few weeks, but within the bounds of the reservation, she had been granted custody of the child according to its court procedures.

Since the tribe is a sovereign nation, state police could do nothing. Only the federal government could challenge the decision made in the Miccosukee court. However, the Indian court system can only resolve matters involving people of full Indian heritage–either those descended from a certain core family in the tribe, or, those with a certain high percentage of Native blood. The parents maintain that their daughter does not have enough Miccosukee blood to be under that jurisdiction. Still, the child remained kidnapped until finally, the State Attorney’s Office prompted an investigation that encouraged the tribe to finally give the baby back to her parents.

The sovereignty of Indian tribes as autonomous nations was meant to protect the ways of life of the Indigenous Native American people. However, as more and more Indian nations members choose to have relationships and children with partners from outside the reservation, a whole new branch of family law challenges opens up. This is far from the only child custody case involving decisions made in a tribal court of law, which is not under any pressure to conform to any of the standards of the United States.

© 2018 Millionairium and Griffith, Young & Lass. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Millionairium and Griffith, Young & Lass are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Meet Your Dedicated San Diego Family Attorneys
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS

Family Attorney, John N. Griffith, CFLS

John Griffith has practiced exclusively in the area of family law since 2009. John is a Certified Family Law Specialist certified as an expert in the area of family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization.

858-345-1720
john@gylfamilylaw.com

Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.
Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

San Diego family lawyer Catie Young has a wide range of litigation experience. She has worked in civil litigation. She has successfully represented clients in many areas of family law including child support, child custody, divorce and domestic violence. She has a unique approach to each child custody case, so clients of Griffith, Young & Lass tend to gravitate toward her in these cases.

858-345-1720
catie@gylfamilylaw.com

Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.
Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Family Attorney, Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Amy Lass was born in New York and raised in San Diego, California. Amy graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2003 with a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Enterprise Accounting and went on to earn her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated cum laude in 2006. Amy takes a practical and cost considerate approach to the process while striving to balance the emotional needs and objectives of her clients.

858-345-1720
amy@gylfamilylaw.com

  • acfis
  • acfis
  • bear
  • bear
  • bear
  • top
The Typical Divorce Process in California
We deliver results
I am beyond grateful for the entire staff at Griffith, Young, and Lass. I don't even call myself a client anymore, they are my friends that protected my family and fought with me, side by side.-Erik H., San Diego