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25 U.S.C.A. § 1920

United States Code Annotated
Title 25.  Indians
Chapter 21. Indian Child Welfare (Refs & Annos)

Subchapter I. Child Custody Proceedings

§ 1920. Improper removal of child from custody;  declination of jurisdiction;  forthwith return of child:  danger exception

Where any petitioner in an Indian child custody proceeding before a State court has improperly removed the child from custody of the parent or Indian custodian or has improperly retained custody after a visit or other temporary relinquishment of custody, the court shall decline jurisdiction over such petition and shall forthwith return the child to his parent or Indian custodian unless returning the child to his parent or custodian would subject the child to a substantial and immediate danger or threat of such danger.


(Pub.L. 95-608, Title I, § 110, Nov. 8, 1978, 92 Stat. 3075.)


Revision Notes and Legislative Reports

1978 Acts. House Report No. 95-1386, see 1978 U.S. Code Cong. and Adm. News, p. 7530.


Protecting abused children:  A judge's perspective on public law deprived child proceedings and the impact of the Indian Child Welfare Acts.  Edward L. Thompson, 15 Am.Indian L.Rev. 1 (1990).


American Digest System

Indians 6(2), 32(11).

Key Number System Topic No. 209.



Am. Jur. 2d Indians § 145, Generally; Tribe's Jurisdiction.

Treatises and Practice Aids

Federal Procedure, Lawyers Edition § 46:472, State Court's Declining Jurisdiction Upon Improper Removal of Child from Custody.


Declining jurisdiction 2

Improper removal from custody 1

Return of child 3

Voluntary written placement agreement 4


1. Improper removal from custody

Non-Indian adoptive parents did not improperly remove Indian child from reservation and retain child in violation of Indian Child Welfare Act;  when adoptive mother brought child to adoptive home, she had biological Indian mother's consent, in habeas corpus petition filed by Indian mother nine months after child was removed, she failed to assert any legal right to child, and up until time adoption was granted, adoptive parents had rightful custody of child and were not retaining child improperly pursuant to custody order entered in state court which resulted from mother's habeas corpus proceeding.  Matter of Adoption of T.R.M., Ind.1988, 525 N.E.2d 298, rehearing denied, certiorari denied 109 S.Ct. 2072, 490 U.S. 1069, 104 L.Ed.2d 636.  Indians  6.10

No removal or retention of Indian child occurred "without the sanction of law," for purposes of causing state court to decline jurisdiction on ground that child had been improperly removed from custody of Indian parent under 25 U.S.C.A. § 1920, where the Division of Family and Youth Services took case to superior court promptly at expiration of voluntary placement agreement between mother and the Division and again at end of 30-day temporary custody period granted to the Division by the court, and superior court had adequate basis for its second order extending temporary custody, because it had State's supporting memorandum regarding mother's knowledge that child was in custody and her failure to either visit child or contact the Division.  D.E.D. v. State, Alaska 1985, 704 P.2d 774.

2. Declining jurisdiction

Issue of whether superior court committed reversible error in not declining jurisdiction over hearing at which Indian mother's parental rights to her Indian child were terminated would not be considered, where mother never requested superior court to rule on jurisdictional issues she specified as error on appeal.  D.E.D. v. State, Alaska 1985, 704 P.2d 774.  Appeal And Error  185(1)

3. Return of child

Even if children were improperly removed from their parent by state, no relief could be provided under Indian Child Welfare Act after children have been returned to care of their parent.  Fletcher v. State of Fla., M.D.Fla.1994, 858 F.Supp. 169.  Indians  6.6(1)

4. Voluntary written placement agreement

Voluntary written placement agreement signed by Indian mother for placement of her Indian child did not have to satisfy requirements of 25 U.S.C.A. § 1913, providing for specific means of execution and certification of such agreements, where agreement signed by mother was not subject to provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act [25 U.S.C.A. § 1901 et seq.];  therefore, the agreement could not furnish a basis for superior court to return child to mother after declining jurisdiction under 25 U.S.C.A. § 1920, providing that court shall decline jurisdiction over custody proceeding petition where petitioner has improperly removed Indian child from custody of parent.  D.E.D. v. State, Alaska 1985, 704 P.2d 774.

25 U.S.C.A. § 1920, 25 USCA § 1920

Approved 07-28-05