U.S. Supreme Court

Cert Petition Involves Adoption Dispute and Indian Law


Among the cert petitions being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday is the case of a toddler named Veronica who was ordered transferred from her adoptive parents to a biological father who initially renounced his parental rights by text message.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina had raised 27-month-old Veronica since birth and were “ideal parents,” the South Carolina Supreme Court had said in a divided opinion. But the girl’s biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, was entitled to custody under a 1978 law designed to curb abusive child welfare practices involving American Indian children, the court ruled in July. The New York Times covers the case, but says it’s not clear the Supreme Court will want to wade into the difficult dispute.

The adoption is supported by Veronica’s biological mother, who is not an American Indian, and the girl’s court-appointed guardian. The outcome would have been different in at least 11 other states that interpret the law differently when a noncustodial father relinquishes rights to a non-Indian mother, according to the cert petition (PDF). At issue, the Times says, “is whether an absent father should have the right to thwart a mother’s wishes about the fate of her child simply because he happens to be an Indian.”

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