Navajo Nation SCT Defines Customary Adoption in Family Law Case

Here is the opinion in James v. Window Rock Family Court.

Here is the court’s syllabus:

The Court grants James’ petition for writ of mandamus where James’ adoption filing was not acted on by the family court for several months. The writ compels the timely processing of cases within statutory and rule-based timeframes and emphasizes the responsibilities of the Court Administrator. The Court also addressed the family court’s erroneous interpretation of the adoption statute, which the family court interpreted as requiring a separate petition for termination of parental rights (TPRs) to be filed when an adoption is sought.  Clarifying that the Navajo Nation favors formal adoptions with TPRs only in cases of child abuse or neglect, the Court stated that the recent Alchíní bi Beehaz’áanii Act emphasizes that “customary adoptions” must be considered before all other options, including TPR as a last resort.  As the Act does not define customary adoptions, the Court provides the definition in this opinion.