Supreme Court Rules for Indian Girl's Adopted Parents

Lower court had returned Veronica to Cherokee dad
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2013 12:31 PM CDT
Supreme Court Rules for Indian Girl's Adopted Parents
This October 2011 photo provided by Melanie Capobianco shows her adoptive daughter Veronica trick-or-treating, in Charleston, SC.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of Melanie Capobianco)

The Supreme Court sided with a South Carolina couple today in a contentious adoption battle. Matt and Melanie Capobianco cared for baby Veronica since birth, until a family court ordered her returned to her biological father, Dusten Brown, at the end of 2011 when she had just turned 2; the state's highest court upheld the ruling. Brown is a member of the Cherokee Nation, and he argued that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 gave him the right to take custody of his daughter. (The act was meant to put a halt to practices that had separated Native American children from their families, Reuters notes.)

The Supreme Court threw out the lower court's ruling today in a 5-4 vote. That ruling would allow "a biological Indian father [to] abandon his child in utero and refuse any support for the birth mother ... and then play his ICWA trump card at the eleventh hour to override the mother's decision and the child's best interests," wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the majority opinion. The Capobiancos were not granted an adoption, however; the case was returned to the South Carolina state courts. Tulsa World offers some background on the case: Veronica's unwed mother placed her for adoption and Brown voluntarily surrendered his custody rights four months after her adoption, in return for not having to pay child support. But he says he was tricked into doing so, and did not know the baby had already been adopted until he signed away his rights. (Read more Native Americans stories.)

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