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Florida court rejects tribal jurisdiction in child custody dispute

Filed Under: Law | National
More on: florida, jurisdiction, languages, miccosukee, tribal courts

The Miccosukee Tribe lacks jurisdiction in a child custody dispute, a Florida appeals court ruled on Wednesday.

The tribe's court awarded custody of two children to Layla Billie, their Miccosukee mother. The non-Indian father, Kevin Stier, challenged the proceedings, which were largely conducted in the Miccosukee language.

The dispute ended up in state court, with both parties attempting to assert their rights under the Uniform Child Custody, Jurisdiction, and Enforcement Act. The Florida Third District Court of Appeal ruled for the father, holding that the tribal proceedings did not "substantially conform" with the law.

"Specifically, the Circuit Court relied on the fact that 1) the father did not receive notice of the reason for the proceedings in the Tribal Court as required by Section 61.509(3), Florida Statutes (2012), and he had not submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the Tribal Court; 2) at the temporary child custody hearing the father did not have the opportunity to be heard; 3) the father’s attorney was not allowed into the tribal proceedings even as an observer; 4) although the father was allowed to attend the proceedings, he was unable to understand what was happening as the proceedings were conducted largely in the Miccosukee language and he was not given an interpreter; and 5) the mother testified in Miccosukee for over twenty minutes and the Tribal Court gave the father only a two-minute summary in English before granting temporary custody to the mother," the decision stated.

"We agree with the Circuit Court that those actions were not in substantial conformity with the UCCJEA," the decision continued.

Billie's attorney is considering an appeal, The Miami Herald reported.

Get the Story:
Appeals court: Tribal judges should not oversee custody dispute case (The Miami Herald 4/24)

Florida Court of Appeals Decision:
Billie v. Stier (April 23, 2014)

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