State Supreme Court will hear Veronica custody case

  • Posted: Saturday, January 14, 2012 12:01 a.m., Updated: Friday, March 23, 2012 7:17 p.m.
Veronica plays with her Christmas toys in James Island on Dec. 31, 2011.

A cross-country legal battle over custody of a 2-year-old girl moves its fight next to the S.C. Supreme Court.

James Island residents Matt and Melanie Capobianco hope to overturn the local court order that required them to give up their adoptive daughter, Veronica, to her biological father, a man she'd never met, on New Year's Eve. Officials in the state's highest court confirmed Friday that the case had been accepted.

The Capobiancos must file their first briefs by Thursday. Supreme Court officials would not say how the case will move forward from there, because each takes a unique path.

The couple adopted Veronica after attempting in-vitro fertilization seven times and then connecting with the child's birth mother in Oklahoma in 2009. Matt cut the umbilical cord in the hospital, and the couple maintained close contact with Veronica's biological mother.

The girl's biological father, 30-year-old Dusten Brown, filed for paternity and custody four months later and, as an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, argued his case under the 1978 Indian Child

Welfare Act, which aims to preserve Native American families.

Brown won the lawsuit in November, and an appellate court judge on Dec. 30 also sided with him and ordered the Capobiancos to turn over the child.

Brown's attorney argued that Veronica's biological mother concealed her plans to put their daughter up for adoption, and that Brown signed away custody only under the assumption that he was transferring the rights to Veronica's birth mother.

A filing on behalf of the Capobiancos states Brown testified that he would give up his rights to Veronica so long as he "would not be responsible in any way for child support or anything else as far as the child's concerned," a statement that Brown's attorney denied.

Brown and his parents left Charleston in a blue pickup truck on New Year's Eve and headed back to Oklahoma with Veronica in a child seat.

More than 16,000 people have signed an online petition seeking to return Veronica to the Capobiancos, and a "Save Veronica Rose" Facebook page had nearly 4,800 "likes" as of Friday night.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or on Twitter at @allysonjbird.

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