Unpublished ICWA Indian Custodian Case out of California


The evidence that mother transferred custody of the minors to the paternal grandmother as an Indian custodian was equivocal and compromised. Although maternal grandmother took N.J. to the emergency room, she gave conflicting information regarding whether she had custody of the children. For example, while she told police that she provided care for the minors, mother had custody of them. Likewise, she told doctors that mother had custody of N.J. and that N.J. lived with mother. Indeed, maternal grandmother’s inconsistent and equivocal answers regarding who had custody of the minors was one reason that they were placed in protective custody.
Additional facts undercut any claim that maternal grandmother was an Indian custodian. L.J. was found with father at maternal grandmother’s house the day N.J. was admitted to the hospital. While the Citizen Potawatomi Nation had a specific procedure for establishing an Indian custodian, maternal grandmother did not avail herself of this procedure to establish herself as the minors’ Indian custodian. While the tribe was represented at the hearing on maternal grandmother’s request to be recognized as an Indian custodian, the tribe did not claim she was the minors’ custodian and did not object to the trial court’s ruling denying the request and reinstating the orders terminating parental rights. Finally, we find it telling that an alleged Indian custodian of the minors did not visit or request contact with the minors since October 1, 2012, five days after they were placed in protective custody.

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