Officers with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs served a court order on a Montana reservation as part of an ongoing child custody battle. The officers went to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana to serve a court order issued in Minnesota. The court order called for two boys living on the reservation with their maternal grandmother to come back to Minnesota and live with their father. The child custody battle may evolve into a conflict between state, federal, and tribal laws.
Details of the Child Custody Battle
The child custody battle started when Patsy Fercho, the maternal grandmother of the two boys, took the children from their Minnesota home in September to the Montana reservation. According to her attorney in the child custody battle, she believed that a tribal court order that gave her custody of the boys superseded the Minnesota order that granted custody to the boys’ father. The tribe reportedly granted her custody while her adopted daughter, the boys’ mother, was dealing with drug addiction and legal issues.
BIA Agents Involved In Child Custody Battle
The jurisdictional dispute between the state and tribal court orders sparked the child custody battle. After locating Ms. Fercho and the boys on the reservation, BIA officers detained Ms. Fercho and escorted the boys to the reservation border, where they delivered the children to their father. Federal law requires that BIA officers enforce state court orders. However, the agency is not required to recognize orders from tribal courts.
Child Custody Battle Crosses Jurisdictional Lines
While the boys’ mother was coping with her issues, the father and grandmother became embroiled in the child custody battle. The boys’ father obtained temporary custody late last year in a Montana court, then took the boys to Minnesota. Ms. Fercho started her child custody battle in the Minnesota courts, while still asking her tribe to intervene. She claimed that the boys had suffered physical abuse while in their father’s custody. The tribal court allowed her to take emergency guardianship to protect the children.
Child Custody Battle Leads To Arrest Warrants
The Minnesota court did not recognize the tribal court’s order, so it found Ms. Fercho in contempt of court for taking the boys out of state during the child custody battle. The Minnesota family law court issued arrest warrants for Ms. Fercho and her husband. Ms. Fercho’s attorney in the child custody battle called the government’s case “coordinated” and said that the BIA “didn’t consult with the tribe.” The case may eventually come to federal court to determine which jurisdiction has the final authority.
Source: ABC News
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