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Grandmother, grandkids flee to tribal land after custody dispute

Child custody cases are sometimes complicated on their own, but additional challenges arise when jurisdiction is unclear. California residents might not have heard about the grandmother in Montana who took her two grandsons to Cheyenne land when their father was granted custody by a judge. The woman sought custody in U.S. and tribal courts and was granted emergency custody in the latter. She fled because she alleges abuse by the father.

Parents have rights in U.S. courts when they are not deemed unfit, and the father was given custody as no abuse charges were filed despite social workers recommending that the father should not have custody of the 5- and 8-year-old boys. The father of the boys got an emergency order on Oct. 5 from the judge who granted him custody, so the grandmother is wanted on a $25,000 warrant for custodial interference.

The grandmother is a retired government teacher, and she was given emergency custody along with her husband in tribal court as it found that the children were in danger of bodily injury. The woman brought the boys to Montana after getting custody from tribal court, and the boys lived in Glendive with their grandparents for three years. The grandmother's attorney says that they have a valid order and that tribal courts are allowed to act in child custody disputes like this one.

The boys in this case and their mother are members of the tribe while the father is not, and incidents like this may occur if one parent belongs to a protected group or lives somewhere else when the other parent does not. When situations of this nature take place, jurisdiction must be determined to know how to proceed. Typically, a court may look at a child's connection to both places that want jurisdiction. When child custody disputes arise, an attorney might be necessary.

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