Settlement talks continue in Veronica adoption case


Mediation discussions continued Thursday in Oklahoma as opponents in the adoption of 4-year-old Veronica try to find a middle ground, but a judge told the Tulsa World newspaper that no settlement had been reached.

Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island and Dusten Brown were seen for the fourth consecutive day at a downtown Tulsa courthouse, where multiple sources told The Post and Courier that mediation was ongoing.

The sources refused to be named because of a gag order.

Those sources said the sides had nearly reached a deal at other times during the week. They expected one proposal allowing Brown to visit Veronica to be approved Thursday.

But the settlement judge in the case said that no agreement had been finalized, the Tulsa World reported around midday Thursday. The newspaper did not name the judge.

The parties in the dispute attended hours-long proceedings Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and again Thursday in a building where an appeals court holds hearings.

The details of the discussions were not known because of the gag order.

Steven Hager, a former mediator who now serves as the director of litigation for Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, told the Tulsa World that the process typically ends in a solution that both sides can accept but not be completely happy with.

Opponents in such a dispute usually must realize that they’re unlikely to win outright, he said.

“This is not going to end well,” Hager told the newspaper. “The hope is to find a compromise that ends it as gracefully and as least destructively as possible for the child.”

Brown got custody in late 2011 under the Indian Child Welfare Act, but the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that the federal law didn’t apply to him because he hadn’t been in Veronica’s or her birth mother’s lives. Both the child and Brown are members of the Cherokee Nation.

South Carolina courts then finalized the Capobiancos’ adoption, but Brown’s attorneys challenged the decree from being enforced in Oklahoma.

During a Cherokee County, Okla., court appearance Aug. 16, the two sides agreed to mediation in the custody dispute as Brown successfully fought for a stay of judgment from the Oklahoma Supreme Court that stopped any immediate change of custody.

Even after Brown refused to hand over his daughter and a warrant was issued for his arrest last month, the Capobiancos maintained in an interview with The Post and Courier that they wanted him to play a role in Veronica’s future.

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