Split Virginia SCT Applies Best Interests of Child Analysis in ICWA Case

Here is the opinion in Dinwiddie Dept. of Social Services v. Nunnally.

The dissenters point out that 14 (now 15) state courts have addressed whether to use the best interests of the child analysis:

Most states that have confronted the issue we face today have held that a “best interests” consideration is inappropriate under the “good cause” analysis in Section 1911(b). Eight states have conclusively adopted this position, including Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Texas.2Link to the text of the note People ex rel. J.L.P., 870 P.2d 1252, 1258 (Colo. Ct. App. 1994); In re Armell, 550 N.E.2d 1060, 1065-66 (Ill. App. Ct. 1990); In re Child of: R.L.Z. and R.G.L, 2009 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1015, at *14-16 (Minn. Ct. App. 2009) (unpublished); C.E.H. v. R.H., 837 S.W.2d 947, 954 (Mo. Ct. App. 1992); In re Interest of Zylena R. v. Elise M., 825 N.W.2d 173, 184-86 (Neb. 2012) (overruling its decision to allow a “best interests” consideration in In re Interest of C.W., 479 N.W.2d 105 (Neb. 1992)); In re Guardianship of Ashley Elizabeth R., 863 P.2d 451, 456 (N.M. Ct. App. 1993); In re Interest of A.B. v. K.B., 663 N.W.2d 625, 633-34 (N.D. 2003); Yavapai-Apache Tribe, 906 S.W.2d at 169-71.

Only a minority of six states allow a “best interests” consideration in the Section 1911(b) “good cause” analysis, including Arizona, California, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.3Link to the text of the note In re Maricopa Cnty. Juvenile Action No. JS-8287, 828 P.2d 1245, 1251 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1991); In re Alexandria P., 228 Cal. App. 4th 1322, 1355-56 (Cal. Ct. App. 2014); In re Adoption of T.R.M., 525 N.E.2d 298, 308 (Ind. 1988); In re T.S., 801 P.2d 77, 79-80 (Mont. 1990); Carney v. Moore (In re N.L.), 754 P.2d 863, 869 (Okla. 1988); In re Guardianship of J.C.D., 686 N.W.2d 647, 650 (S.D. 2004).

Four other state courts have acknowledged the issue, but avoided resolving it because the issue was not properly before the court. Ex parte C.L.J., 946 So.2d 880, 893-94 (Ala. Civ. App. 2006); In re C.R.H., 29 P.3d 849, 854 n.24 (Alaska 2001); In re J.L.A., 2007 Kan. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1154, at *2-6 (Kan. Ct. App. 2007) (unpublished); In re Guardianship of J.O., 743 A.2d 341, 348-49 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2000).

Fodder for a law student note….

Kate posted the lower appellate court decision here.