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On June 30, 2005, the parties' local tribal council, the Angoon Community Association (ACA), approved resolutions stating that it “has recognized” the Starrs' adoptions of the two children. The ACA also issued Tribal Statements affirming each child's adoption and stating that “the tribe has not been informed of any person or agency other than the adoptive parents who is asserting claim to custody under state or tribal law.” These statements are dated June 30, 2005. On September 1, 2005, the Starrs moved to dismiss the Georges' 2004 custody case, arguing that the adoptions terminated the legal relationship between the Georges and the children and that the Georges no longer possessed standing in the custody action. The Starrs argue that due process was not violated because the Georges were not entitled to due process rights and notice to them was therefore not required. The Starrs contend that “Judge Weeks' decision assumes, without actually addressing it, that the paternal grandparents took the position of their son when he died, and that they are therefore entitled to such notice.” The Starrs assert that this assumption was error because “[n]othing in the laws supports such a conclusion.” The Starrs additionally argue that an extant guardianship case does not prohibit adoption because custody and adoption are two different types of proceedings.
The Starrs appeal the denial of their motion to dismiss on the ground the tribal adoptions were entitled to full faith and credit. Standard of Review The parties agree that all of the issues on appeal present questions of law. we held that ICWA does not have an exception for “custody disputes within the extended family.” Although we recognized that, upon adoption by members of the child's extended family, application of ICWA was not required to preserve the child's ties to Indian cultural or social values, we could not justify creating a judicial exception on this basis alone. The divorce exception guarantees that parents can always litigate in state court their paramount parental rights. 1JU-04-869 CI (“2004 custody case”), seeking custody of both children; they personally served the Starrs with the petition. On November 19, 2004, the Starrs answered and denied that they had prevented the Georges from exercising their visitation rights. On May 17, 2005, the Georges filed a motion for summer visitation in the 2004 custody case. The Georges sought custody on the grounds the Starrs had removed K. On February 26, 2005, the Starrs signed for each child a Request for Substitute Birth Certificate Following a Cultural Adoption verifying that they were the adoptive parents of K. The superior court's June 17, 2005 order awarded summer visitation to the Georges in the custody case. On July 5, 2005, the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics issued new birth certificates for K. The superior court therefore concluded that the tribal adoptions were not subject to full faith and credit, but rather were subject to the principle of comity-a principle under which it is easier to attack the parallel judgments of foreign (in this case, tribal) courts. The superior court further concluded that the tribal adoptions were not entitled to comity because the Georges had not been given notice and an opportunity to be heard in violation of their due process rights. The parties do not dispute that the children are Indian children within the meaning of ICWA.17.
The Starrs then moved to dismiss the Georges' state court custody action.