Alaska SCT Recognizes Inherent Authority of Tribal Court to Enforce Child Support Orders Against Non-Member Parents

From Justice Fabe’s opinion:

This case, in contrast, requires that we decide whether tribal courts’ inherent, non-territorial subject matter jurisdiction does in fact extend to the adjudication of the child support rights and obligations of nonmember parents of children who are members or eligible for membership. We hold that because tribes’ inherent authority over child support stems from their power over family law matters concerning the welfare of Indian children — an area of law that is integral to tribal self-governance — the basis and limits of that authority are tied to the child rather than the parent.

Two Justices joined in a separate concurring opinion, which reads more like a dissent:

Today the court affirms those legal rulings and the associated injunctive relief, and I join that part of its decision. But the court unnecessarily moves further and reaches out to provide an advisory opinion on yet another legal issue: whether a tribal court with non-territorial based inherent sovereign authority to adjudicate matters involving tribal children necessarily has adjudicatory authority (subject to some unstated personal jurisdiction limitations) over non-tribal-member parents. This issue is not necessary to the decision before us, there is no specific controversy in this case necessitating a decision on the issue, there is no party in this case truly advocating for the interests of non-member parents on the issue, and neither the Tribe nor the United States considered the issue worthy of significant briefing; I therefore do not join the court’s advisory opinion.

Opinion is here.

Briefs here.

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