Baby Veronica could be coming back to Charleston after a ruling from the S.C. Supreme Court Wednesday cleared the way for her adoption, but her father is looking for a way to fight it.
“We are thrilled that after 18 long months, our daughter finally will be coming home,” Matt and Melanie Capobianco said in a statement after the ruling. “We look forward to seeing Veronica’s smiling face in the coming days and will do everything in our power to make her homecoming as smooth as possible. We also want to thank everyone who has supported us throughout this ordeal. Our prayers have been answered.”
Shannon Jones, the Charleston attorney for the father, Dusten Brown, said she talked with him late Wednesday afternoon, and he was sobbing. Jones said she didn’t know what is around the corner but “my client is not going to give up the fight.”
Lori McGill, an attorney in Washington, D.C., representing the birth mother, doesn’t see any way the order could be challenged.
“There’s no indication there is any wiggle room there,” she said. “The only question now is compliance.”
The birth mother has always favored the Capobiancos keeping Veronica. She turned the baby over to the James Island couple shortly after she was born in September 2009, and the Capobiancos filed adoption papers.
Her father, Brown of Oklahoma, who is part Cherokee, filed for custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act after he got the adoption papers in January 2010, four months after the baby was born.
The S.C. Supreme Court upheld the father’s position. Veronica was taken to Oklahoma in December 2011, when she was 2. The Cherokee dubbed her “Little Star” and started introducing her to native American culture.
The Capobiancos fought the state court ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that the federal Indian Child Welfare Act did not apply and that South Carolina courts should decide who gets to adopt the 3-year-old.
Earlier this month, Brown filed to adopt the child in Oklahoma but did not do so in South Carolina.
On Wednesday South Carolina’s high court ordered the adoption to move forward on a 3-2 vote, saying that the Capobiancos are the only party properly seeking to adopt the girl in the state and ordered a family court to finalize the couple’s adoption.
Looking for a challenge
Brown’s attorney, John Nichols of Columbia, said that at this point the decision appears to be final, but lawyers will be looking for any way to challenge the ruling.
“The decision appears final,” he said. “He’s disappointed, as you can imagine. Any father would be, after being told they have to turn over their child to somebody else. … What we’re mostly concerned about is the best interests of this child.”
Jones, the father’s Charleston attorney, said the part of the ruling that she found most difficult was that the ruling did not take into account what was in the best interest of the child, and negated Brown’s argument for that.
“That’s the guiding light of child custody cases.”
She said she was holding out hope that there’s some way to address that decision.
The Cherokee Nation issued a statement decrying the decision.
“We are outraged and saddened that the South Carolina Supreme Court would order the transfer of this child without a hearing to determine what is in her best interests, particularly in light of the fact that this very same court previously found “we cannot say that Baby Girl’s best interests are not served by the grant of custody to Father, as Appellants have not presented evidence that Baby Girl would not be safe, loved, and cared for if raised by Father and his family.”
Tribal leaders said they will continue to try to find a way to challenge the decision.
“We definitely believe that it’s in her best interest to stay with her father,” Chrissi Nimmo, the assistant attorney general of the Cherokee Nation, told the Tulsa World. “And we’ll do everything possible to make sure that happens.”
The decision becomes final in five days, unless somebody can come up with a good reason to challenge it. Once the ruling is final, the Supreme Court sends the order to finalize the adoption to Charleston County Family Court.
Family Court then will send an order to return Veronica to Charleston to the sheriff in the Oklahoma County where the father lives. The father could choose to immediately comply or to fight the order.
If the father chooses to comply, the two families will work out a transition time to make the process easier for Veronica. That’s not required, but it is a possibility that will be discussed, according to attorneys on both sides.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 and Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557.
The Adoptive Parents: Matt and Melanie Capobianco celebrated last month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal Indian Child Welfare Act did not apply to Veronica’s case. On Wednesday, South Carolina’s high court ordered the Capobianco’s adoption to move forward.×
The Biological father: Dusten Brown is seen with his daughter Veronica at their home in Nowata, Okla., on April 11. “He’s disappointed, as you can imagine.” Brown’s attorney, John Nichols, said.×
Supporters of Matt and Melanie Capobianco traveled to the S.C. Supreme Court TuesdayApril 17, 2011 to show their support and tell passersby about the custody battle for 2-year-old Veronica. (File/Allyson Bird/postandcourier.com)×