Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Existing Indian Family Definition:

American aboriginal (Indian) law: an exemption of an otherwise Indian child from statutory entitlements, where that child shows no link to an existing Indian band or family.

Related Terms: Indian

In Ex parte C.L.J., Justice Thompson of the Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama adopted these words:

"Existing Indian Family exception to the applicability of the Indian Child Welfare Act. That exception is based upon the overall concern of the ICWA to pprevent the unwarranted removal of Indian children from an existing Indian family unit and the resultant breakup of the Indian family.

"The Existing Indian Family exception applies when the child at issue is illegitimate and has never been a member of an Indian family or culture.

"However, ... that exception has been applied only to those fact situations involving the voluntary relinquishment of an illegitimate Indian child by its non-Indian mother."

In Nevada, in 2009, Justice Sietta wrote (re N.J.):

"The judicially created EIF doctrine is an exception to the ICWA that precludes its application in cases where the court determines that there is no existing Native American family, meaning the child is not, and never was, part of a Native American family or tribe."


  • Ex parte C.L.J., 946 So. 2d 880 (2006)
  • In re N.J., 221 P. 3d 1255

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