Court Undoes Marine's Adoption of Afghan War Orphan, 3

Rare move means US couple will again have to try to win permanent custody
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 31, 2023 3:50 PM CDT
Court Undoes Marine's Adoption of Afghan War Orphan, 3
An artist sketch depicts Marine Maj. Joshua Mast and his wife, Stephanie, listening during a Circuit Court hearing before Judge Claude V. Worrell Jr. on Thursday in Charlottesville, Virginia.   (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

In a highly unusual ruling, a state court judge on Thursday voided a Marine's adoption of an Afghan war orphan, more than a year after he took the little girl away from the Afghan couple raising her. But her future remains uncertain. For now, the child will stay with Marine Maj. Joshua Mast and his wife, Stephanie, under a temporary custody order they obtained before the adoption. The Masts will have to reprove to the court that they should be granted a permanent adoption, the AP reports.

Despite the uncertainty, the ruling was a welcome move for the Afghan couple, who had been identified by the Afghan government as the child's relatives in February 2020 and raised her for 18 months. They dropped to their knees in prayer outside the courthouse. As they held each other, the young man wiped the tears from their eyes with his wife's headscarf. The Masts quickly left the courthouse after Thursday's hearing. The parties are prohibited from commenting by a gag order. But Judge Claude V. Worrell Jr. said, "There’s never, ever been a case like this."

The ruling is one more twist in what is already a standout case. "Once an adoption is final, it is extremely difficult and rare for it to be overturned," said Virginia attorney Stanton Phillips. "This is really, really unusual," said adoption attorney Barbara Jones. "You just don't hear about this happening." A spokesperson for the Defense Department said Thursday it was aware of the ruling and referred the AP to the Justice Department, which declined to comment. Another hearing is scheduled for June.

(More Afghanistan stories.)

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