Still No Resolution to the Baby Veronica Custody Case

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the custody case involving a 4-year-old Native American girl referred to as “Baby Veronica”, motions and more motions continue to be filed in state supreme courts, county courts and tribal courts.

In 2008, Christy Maldonado was briefly engaged to Dusten Brown. Brown is a member of the Cherokee nation and lives in Oklahoma. Shortly after Maldonado became pregnant, the two ended the relationship. In May 2009, a few months before Baby Veronica was born, Maldonado sent Brown a text asking if he would rather pay child support or relinquish his parental rights. He responded, via text, that he relinquished his rights.

With the help of a private adoption agency, Maldonado agreed to let a South Carolina couple adopt the baby. Matt and Melanie Capobianco were also present at the baby’s birth. When she was four months old, the Capobiancos served Brown with a notice of the pending adoption.

Kerry  child custodyBrown said he only relinquished his rights to Maldonado and did not agree to give Baby Veronica up for adoption. With the help of lawyers from the Cherokee Nation, a South Carolina Family Court awarded custody to Brown. Baby Veronica was 27 months old when she went to live with her father.

The family court’s decision was later upheld by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which cited the Indian Child Welfare Ac t of 1978 as the basis for their decision. This law was enacted as a way to reduce the high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native American families and losing their cultural identity.

The Capobiancos appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, who made their decision in June. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court said that the federal law doesn’t apply in this case because Brown never had custody of his daughter. In July, the South Carolina Supreme Court finalized the Capobiancos’ adoption of Baby Veronica.

As Brown’s legal team filed motions fighting the decision, South Carolina issued a warrant for his extradition on custodial interference charges. Brown turned himself in and was released on bond. And according to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Brown is allowed to keep Baby Veronica with him. However, Brown and his family live on Cherokee Nation territory which ultimately gives Cherokee Nation jurisdiction, unless Brown agrees to give custody decision authority to the Oklahoma courts. If it is kept under Cherokee nation jurisdiction, then the federal courts may have to get involved to ultimately decide this case.

If you are involved in a child custody case, you need a knowledgeable DuPage County family law attorney to represent you. Contact our office and find out how our years of experience can help protect the best interests of you and your family.

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