While four Justices agreed there was no way they could deny Veronica's biological father his rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act, the remaining five -- including Chief Justice John Roberts, who is an adoptive father -- voted that the adoptive parents had been the consistently reliable adults in the girl's life.
The battle over Veronica's custody reached the Supreme Court because the 3-year-old is 3/256th Cherokee and her biological father, Dusten Brown, requested her return.
Melanie and Matt Capobianco from South Carolina have been caring for Baby Veronica for 27 months since she was put up for adoption. Eighteen months ago, however, her biological father won custody over the girl in South Carolina's county and state courts citing the federal law protecting Native American families was paramount.
Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who ruled with the majority, said the rule didn't apply if there was no nuclear Native American family to break in the first place. He added that Brown did not support Veronica's mother during her pregnancy, texted her he was willing to give up his parental rights and changed his mind long after the child had been living with her adoptive parents.
"In that situation, no Indian family is broken up," Alito said.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who dissented along with liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan and conservative Antonin Scalia, said the court's ruling would only bring more instability to Veronica's life.
"The anguish this case has caused will only be compounded by today's decision," she said.