The Oklahoma state Supreme Court lifted a lower court’s order delaying the return of a 4-year-old girl known as “Veronica” to her adoptive parents, as officials with her father’s Native American tribe vowed to continue arguing for his custody rights.
Tulsa World reported on Monday that the child was given back to the adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco following the high court’s 6-3 ruling.
The court took on the case after the Capobiancos and the girl’s biological father, Dusten Brown, failed to come to a custody agreement. Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree said to the World that Brown had decided a “peaceful and respectful transfer” would be in her best interest.
Hembree had issued a statement earlier in the day saying the ruling required domestication with the Cherokee Nation District Court, and told the World that Brown’s decision did not signal an end to Brown’s four-year court dispute with the Capobiancos.
“We will assess our legal options in the morning,” Hembree said to the World. “Is this over? I would say not.”
Brown had been awarded custody of Veronica after a July 2012 ruling by the Supreme Court in South Carolina, where the Capobiancos live, citing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The case was also the subject of an October 2012 episode of The Dr. Phil Show that Cherokee Nation officials felt was biased toward the Capobiancos.
But according to KOTV-TV, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that ruling, saying the ICWA did not apply to Brown. The district court in Nowata County granted Brown an emergency stay against that decision allowing him to retain custody of the girl. Brown and Veronica were staying at a facility in the Cherokee Nation capital of Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Watch KOTV’s report on the ruling, aired Monday, below.