Hard case: You be the Veronica judge
Where's King Solomon when we need him?
For backsliders who've forgotten that Sunday School lesson, King Solomon remains the royal standard of child-custody-case deciders (more on him at the end of this column).
And while lots of South Carolinians, including this one, long strongly sided with the adoptive parents in the “Baby Veronica” fight, the longer that child lives in Oklahoma, the weaker our resolve for their cause gets.
Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island raised Veronica since birth before the child's biological father, Dusten Brown, took custody of her on Dec. 31, 2011, due to a Charleston County Family Court ruling.
The S.C. Supreme Court upheld Brown's parental right to her in July 2012.
But on June 25 of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for reconsideration of the case by the S.C. Supreme Court, which three weeks later ordered Veronica returned to the Capobiancos.
Brown's still got Veronica, who turns 4 next month, in Oklahoma. But for how long?
His initial legal victory was tainted in the eyes of many self-appointed judges — including me. Exhibit A: Biological mom Christy Maldonado's account that Brown rejected her offer for him to be part of their child's life.
Maldonado recapped that version in a column on our July 16 Commentary page. She wrote that during the third trimester, when she asked Brown “whether he wanted to be involved” with the baby, “he told me, by text message, that he wanted to give up all parental rights.”
Many folks, including me, also held Brown's 2011 legal trump card against him. He won custody then, in large part, because he's a member of the Cherokee Nation — despite being only 2.4 percent Cherokee. That somehow gave him preferred status for custody of 1.2 percent Cherokee Veronica under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.
So pulling for the Capobiancos used to be easy.
I'm still pulling for them.
Now, though, it's a much tougher pull.
Back and forth
In a column on our July 25 Commentary page, Brown disputed Maldonado's story, writing: “I love my daughter with every fiber of being and I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Veronica's interests are given the highest priority as they should be. I will admit that I made mistakes, but not supporting my unborn child and her mother was never my intent.”
Enough about what is and isn't fair to the grown-ups.
What about what is and isn't fair to the little girl?
Regardless of which adults are telling more, or less, of the truth, ponder the indisputable timing of this question:
If it was unfair to Veronica to take her away from the only family she had ever known at the age of 27 months, why wouldn't it also be unfair to her to take her away from the only family she has known for the last 20 months?
And this case isn't just a moral dilemma.
It's a thorny legal — and political — thicket.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday she would decline South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's request that she sign an extradition warrant for Brown, who surrendered to Oklahoma authorities Monday on a charge of failing to turn Veronica over. He was quickly released on bail.
But on Wednesday, Fallin issued a statement saying the Capobiancos “deserve the chance to meet with Mr. Brown and put an end to this conflict” — and that “if Mr. Brown is unwilling to cooperate with these reasonable expectations, then I will be forced to expedite his extradition request and let the issue be settled in court.”
And hey, both Republican governors have agreed to keep their states out of Obama-care's Medicaid expansion.
Splitting the difference
Just don't expect the Capobiancos or Brown to agree on giving up their battles for full custody. Don't expect any 21st century judges to render any win-win verdicts, either.
Way back to King Solomon:
Two women gave birth a few nights apart in the same house. One baby died.
Both moms claimed the surviving child.
When they pleaded their cases to King Solomon, he called for a sword to “divide” the infant so each mother could have half. From Kings 3:26-27 (King James Version):
“Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.”
OK, so that enlightened monarch is very long (nearly 30 centuries) gone.
Yet child-custody warfare's collateral damage to youngsters persists.
And you need not be Christian — or Jewish — to wish King Solomon was still around to sort out this mess.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.