The Cherokee child known as Baby Veronica, who is at the center of a far-reaching legal dispute over Native American law, has been returned to her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. Veronica, 4, had been living with her biological father, Dusten Brown, for the past two years. The U.S. Supreme Court as well as courts in Oklahoma and South Carolina have sided with the Capobiancos:
The dispute has raised questions about jurisdictions, tribal sovereignty and a federal law meant to help keep Native American tribes together.
Veronica’s birth mother, who is not Native American, was pregnant when she put the girl up for adoption; baby Veronica began living with the Capobiancos shortly after her birth. Her father claims federal law favors his keeping the child and won custody when she was 2. But the U.S. Supreme Court then ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act does not apply to the case.
A South Carolina court then finalized the adoption to the Capobiancos and ordered Brown to hand Veronica over. Brown appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court because two Oklahoma courts have certified the South Carolina order.
Brown also is facing extradition to South Carolina to face a charge of custodial interference for refusing to hand over the girl.
Brown’s family returned Veronica to the Capobiancos via Cherokee police Monday evening:
Oklahoma’s top court had cleared the way earlier in the day for the curly-haired girl to head back to the South Carolina, where she spent the first 27 months of her life.
Veronica left the Tahlequah home where she had been staying recently. She said goodbye to Brown and her biological grandparents.
“He told her she was going to stay with Matt and Melanie (Capobianco) and they would be nice to her,” said Shannon Jones of Charleston, the birth father’s attorney. “He told her he loved her.”
After she walked away, Brown released the emotion he held in. He cried.
It was around 8 p.m. eastern time as she was driven a short distance to the Cherokee Nation’s police headquarters. She wore blue jeans, pink Velcro shoes and a pink vest, and she clutched a pink teddy bear. . . .
“It was really a sweet thing to finally see after all this time,” said the couple’s attorney, James Fletcher Thompson of Spartanburg. “The transition seemed to go without incident. That in itself is very good news for all involved.”
The Capobiancos got custody of Veronica on Monday as the two-year legal war they have waged to get her back neared an end.
The reunion came after mediation talks dissolved earlier in the day.
A judge said the opponents had tried hard to reach an agreement. Several of the proposed pacts called for Brown to have time with Veronica during summers and sporadically throughout every year.
How Monday’s handover affects any involvement he might have in the girl’s life was not clear.
Cherokee officials have said they will continue to seek Veronica’s return to Brown.
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