In re Adoption of Micah H.Annotate this Case
The maternal grandparents and guardians of Child (together, Grandparents) filed a petition to adopt Child, alleging that Mother had consented to the adoption, that Father had abandoned Child, and that terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights was in Child’s best interests. Father, a non-Indian, answered, alleging that Child was an “Indian child” under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA). Neither party disputed that Child met the definition of “Indian child” under those acts. The county court applied both acts, which provide heightened protection to the rights of parents and tribes in proceedings involving adoption of Indian children. Following a hearing, the county court denied the petition because it was unable to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Father had abandoned Child. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) although the ICWA and NICWA apply to this adoption proceeding, not every provision of ICWA and NICWA applies to a non-Indian parent; (2) the county court erred in applying a higher standard of proof to the abandonment element of the NICWA; and (3) the county court erred in finding that Grandparents were not required to show “active efforts” had been made to unite Father and Child.