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The Differences in a Native American Divorce

Going through a divorce is never easy, but it can be particularly challenging for Native American couples. There are several different groups of indigenous Native American people throughout California who continue to honor their cultural beliefs. However, there are ways in which these beliefs can make a legally-binding divorce a bit challenging.

If you or your spouse belong to a Native American tribe, consider how a divorce could affect you.

Reservation Living

Living on a reservation is a bit different from other modes of living, and it can be difficult to deal with certain divorce matters when one or both spouses live on native land. Reservations recognize tribal law, and they are established as tribal land, which means some of the laws about property and asset division might be affected by the reservation rules. The United States Supreme Court recognizes reservations as self-governing Native American states, which means they have their own independent power.

Property Division

As previously mentioned, any property shared on the reservation could be handled slightly differently than that of property owned outside. However, tribal rules vary so significantly that it is impossible to say exactly how these laws will impact each divorce.

If only one spouse belongs to a Native American tribe, property division can be especially tricky. According to most tribal laws, only tribal members may own tribal property, which means the non-tribal spouse may have no claim to the assets on the reservation. Again, these rules vary depending on the tribe.

Where You File

Tribal jurisdiction can be tricky, which is why it is extremely important to determine where to file for divorce ahead of time. If you file within the reservation, tribal law applies. If you file outside of the reservation, California law applies. In other words, if you file for a divorce while in a reservation, your property division, child custody, spousal support, and other divorce issues will all be subject to tribal law.

If you are ready to file for a divorce and either you or your spouse is a Native American, you need to discuss your legal options with an experienced, knowledgeable family lawyer.

Contact Singleton Smith Law Offices, schedule an appointment with our Murrieta divorce attorneys.