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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