Family Law

Baby Veronica is returned to adoptive parents after Oklahoma supremes lift stay


Corrected: The 4-year-old girl known as Baby Veronica is back with her adoptive parents after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted a stay (PDF) that had kept the child with her father, Dusten Brown.

The girl has been the subject of legal appeals that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in June that a federal law designed to preserve American Indian families did not apply to the case. Brown is a member of the Cherokee Nation. The transfer occurred Monday evening, the Tulsa World and the Post and Courier reported.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco of Charleston, S.C., initiated proceedings to adopt Baby Veronica in 2009 after Brown said he would not support the child and the birth mother gave her up for adoption. Brown sought custody the next year, maintaining he intended only to give up custody to the birth mother. After South Carolina courts ruled, he moved Baby Veronica to Oklahoma on Dec. 31, 2011.

The attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, Todd Hembree, had told the Tulsa World that the case needed to go before the tribal court before the transfer. But Brown decided it was best to go ahead with a “peaceful and respectful transfer,” he told the newspaper.

Brown cried during the handover, while Baby Veronica’s grandfather was taken to the hospital by ambulance. A source told the Tulsa World he suffered either a heart attack or a panic attack.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court majority voted to lift the stay, while two dissenters said the state supreme court should assume original jurisdiction and require a hearing to determine Baby Veronica’s best interests. The dissenters said the South Carolina courts’ determination did not have to be honored, though the two justices cited differing reasons.

Hembree told the Tulsa World on Monday evening that the legal options would be assessed in the morning. “Is this over? I would say not,” he said.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court ruling in Baby Veronica case didn’t end the adoption dispute”

Corrected on Sept. 29 to state that the Capobiancos initiated proceedings to adopt Baby Veronica in 2009.

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