In Choctaw Indians, the unwed parents were members of the Choctaw Indian Tribe and domiciled on its reservation in Mississippi. The mother gave birth 200 miles away from the reservation because she did not want her infant twins adopted by Indians. She and the father immediately consented to adoption in state court. The Choctaw Tribe moved to vacate the adoption, arguing that the tribal court had sole jurisdiction. The motion was denied. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the denial, reasoning that the children were never domiciled on reservation territory and the parents had expended effort to keep the children from being placed there.
The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that "domicile," unlike "residence," was established not just by one's physical presence in a place, but also by one's intent to remain there. Because the children were incapable of establishing that intent, their domicile was that of their parents. For children born out of wedlock that meant the mother's domicile. Here, the mother's domicile was the reservation. Moreover, letting individual tribal members avoid tribal court jurisdiction simply by giving birth off the reservation would defeat ICWA's purpose.
Matter of Robert O. v. Russell K., 604 N.E.2d 99 (N.Y. 1992) (unwed fathers)
It was the father's responsibility to inquire about the pregnancy and protect his rights, not the mother's duty to name the father to the court in the adoption proceeding.
In New York, an unwed father qualified for notice of an adoption proceeding either by having been adjudicated to be the father, filing a timely notice of intent to claim paternity, living openly with the mother and child, having been named by the mother in a sworn statement, having married the mother after the birth, or by filing with the putative father registry.
In Robert O., the unwed couple broke up without the father knowing about the pregnancy. While separated, the father knew the mother's location, but neither contacted her nor filed with New York's putative father registry. After the birth, the mother surrendered the child for adoption. The mother did not name the father, and the trial court did not ask for the father's identity. The child was seven months old when the trial court ordered the adoption.
Ten months later, the mother told the father about the child. The father immediately reimbursed the mother for her medical expenses, filed with the putative father registry, and moved to vacate the adoption on due process grounds. The trial court denied the motion. The father appealed, arguing that before an adoption was ordered, the court had to determine the biological father's identity and whether he had sufficient opportunity to establish a father-child relationship.