Baby Veronica handed over to adoptive parents

Sept. 24, 2013 at 9:39 AM
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OKLAHOMA CITY, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- The Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an order that kept a 4-year-old girl with her biological father, a member of the Cherokee Nation, as he appealed her adoption.

The girl, Veronica, was turned over to Matt and Melanie Capobianco Monday by Chrissi Nimmo, the Cherokee Nation's assistant attorney general involved in the tribe's fight to keep Veronica in Oklahoma, the Tulsa World reported Tuesday.

Veronica was handed over to the Capobiancos, who live in South Carolina, at the Cherokee Marshal Service headquarters.

The child's father, Dusten Brown, had been fighting the couple over the child's custody. The child's birth mother put her up for adoption, and Brown fought the adoption under the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Once the divided state Supreme Court lifted the order, a lower court issued an order demanding Brown surrender Veronica immediately, the newspaper said.

The girl was staying with her father and his family at a house on tribal land near Tahlequah. The Cherokee Nation was prepared to demand the court order be "domesticated" in tribal court before turning her over to the Capobiancos, Todd Hembree, the tribe's attorney general, told the Tulsa World.

However, Brown decided that it was best for Veronica to go ahead with a "peaceful and respectful transfer," Hembree said. "I respect him for it."

After five days of mediation in Tulsa, negotiations apparently ended Friday without a final agreement between Veronica's two sets of parents, the World said.

The custody battle began when the girl was 4 months old.

The Capobiancos lost custody in December 2011 and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, eventually winning Veronica back. Now, Brown still has the right to continue his appeals, Hembree said.

"We will assess our legal options in the morning," he told the World Monday. "Is this over? I would say not."

Brown had asked the Oklahoma courts for a hearing to determine what was best for Veronica before returning her over to her adoptive parents.

Two dissenting Oklahoma Supreme Court justices said they wanted that hearing as well.

"Baby Girl deserves her day in court," Justice Noma Gurich wrote in her dissent.

Another justice dissented, while a third dissented in part and concurred in part. Five justices voted to lift the order and one justice did not participate.

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