S.C. Supreme Court upholds Baby Veronica

Melanie Capobianco smiles at Veronicaas she plays with her Christmas toys at their James Island home Saturday, December 31, 2011. File.

The South Carolina Supreme Court has upheld a decision to return a James Island couple’s 2-year-old adopted daughter to her biological father.

By a 3-2 vote, the court upheld an order by a family court judge in Charleston requiring James Island residents Matt and Melanie Capobianco turn over their adoptive daughter, Veronica, to her biological father, Oklahoma resident Dusten Brown.

Brown, who is part Cherokee, filed for paternity and custody four months after Veronica’s birth, and successfully argued his case under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to preserve Native American families.

The Supreme Court wrote:

“We do not take lightly the grave interests at stake in this case. However, we are constrained by the law and convinced by the facts that the transfer of custody to Father was required under the law. Adoptive Couple are ideal parents who have exhibited the ability provide a loving family environment for Baby Girl. Thus, it is with a heavy heart that we affirm the family court order.”

The Capobiancos connected with Veronica’s birth mother in Oklahoma in 2009 after seven failed in vitro fertilization attempts. Four months passed between Veronica’s birth and the day Brown filed for paternity and custody.

Brown is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation. He and the Capobiancos endured two years of hearings and paperwork before a Charleston family court judge ruled later last year in his favor under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to preserve Native American families.

The judge ordered the Capobiancos to turn over Veronica, and Brown and his parents drove the toddler back to Oklahoma on New Year’s Eve. The Capobiancos’ friends gathered more than 20,000 signatures on a “Save Veronica” petition in the weeks that followed, and they hand-delivered the document to federal lawmakers’ offices and to Gov. Nikki Haley in January. The couple took their case to the state Supreme Court that same month in hopes of overturning the family court ruling.

Organizers of the Save Veronica Rose page on Facebook announced the ruling to more than 7,000 followers this morning. “To all of our amazing supporters it is with completely broken hearts that we share this devastating news with you,” they wrote.

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