State v. Central Council of Tlingit

[FAMILY LAW]

In State v. Central Council of Tlingit,[1] the supreme court held that tribal courts have inherent, non-territorial subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the child support obligations of parents of children who are tribal members or are eligible for membership.[2] The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act allows parents to register child support orders—for enforcement in Alaska—that were issued by a tribunal of another state, as well as the tribal courts of federally recognized Indian tribes.[3] The Central Council of Tlingit has an established tribal court system and a Tribal Child Support Unit that receives federal funding.[4] The State opposed a child support order issued by this tribal court system.[5] On appeal, the state argued that tribal courts do not have the proper jurisdiction to adjudicate child support issues or to issue child support orders to a non-tribal-member parent.[6] The supreme court reasoned, however, that the tribes’ powers of internal self-governance should include the power to adjudicate over child support issues just as it includes the power to adjudicate over child custody issues.[7] The court further reasoned that these issues are integral to a tribe’s inherent power to self-govern over family law matters.[8] The court also reasoned that parents should reasonably anticipate being required to support their children and perhaps being required to support their children by a court that is tied to the child rather than one of the parents.[9] The court found that tribal court jurisdiction is thus attached to a tribal member or member-eligible child rather than the non-member parent.[10] Affirming the lower court, the supreme court held that tribal courts have inherent, membership-based jurisdiction to adjudicate child support issues related to children who are tribal members or member-eligible.[11]

[1] 371 P.3d 255 (Alaska 2016).

[2] Id. at 267-68.

[3] Id. at 257-58.

[4] Id. at 259.

[5] Id. at 260.

[6] Id. at 266-68.

[7] Id. at 263.

[8] Id. at 263-64, 269.

[9] Id. at 272-74.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

State v. Central Council of Tlingit

[FAMILY LAW]

In State v. Central Council of Tlingit,[1] the supreme court held that tribal courts have inherent, non-territorial subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the child support obligations of parents of children who are tribal members or are eligible for membership.[2] The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act allows parents to register child support orders—for enforcement in Alaska—that were issued by a tribunal of another state, as well as the tribal courts of federally recognized Indian tribes.[3] The Central Council of Tlingit has an established tribal court system and a Tribal Child Support Unit that receives federal funding.[4] The State opposed a child support order issued by this tribal court system.[5] On appeal, the state argued that tribal courts do not have the proper jurisdiction to adjudicate child support issues or to issue child support orders to a non-tribal-member parent.[6] The supreme court reasoned, however, that the tribes’ powers of internal self-governance should include the power to adjudicate over child support issues just as it includes the power to adjudicate over child custody issues.[7] The court further reasoned that these issues are integral to a tribe’s inherent power to self-govern over family law matters.[8] The court also reasoned that parents should reasonably anticipate being required to support their children and perhaps being required to support their children by a court that is tied to the child rather than one of the parents.[9] The court found that tribal court jurisdiction is thus attached to a tribal member or member-eligible child rather than the non-member parent.[10] Affirming the lower court, the supreme court held that tribal courts have inherent, membership-based jurisdiction to adjudicate child support issues related to children who are tribal members or member-eligible.[11]

[1] 371 P.3d 255 (Alaska 2016).

[2] Id. at 267-68.

[3] Id. at 257-58.

[4] Id. at 259.

[5] Id. at 260.

[6] Id. at 266-68.

[7] Id. at 263.

[8] Id. at 263-64, 269.

[9] Id. at 272-74.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.