A family court judge in South Carolina, citing evidence that the father of the little girl now known as “Baby Veronica” is not obeying a court ruling on the child’s adoption by others, has ordered an immediate transfer to those new “lawful parents.”  The judge cancelled a “transition plan” that would have had the transfer occurring over about a week’s time, to ease the transition.  (A copy of the new order is now circulating widely on various websites; a copy taken from one of those sites is reproduced here.)

“Baby Veronica,” who will be four years old next month, was at the center of a Supreme Court ruling in late June, finding that the child’s birth father could not claim parental rights to the child under a federal Indian law.   The father, Dusten Brown of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, is a member of the Cherokee Nation and was claiming rights as an Indian parent.  South Carolina courts have awarded full legal custody of the little girl to a non-Indian couple who live near Charleston, Matthew and Melanie Capobianco.

At the end of last month, the Capobiancos won the right to adopt the child.  But they also agreed that, to avoid the shock of an abrupt removal of her from the father with whom she has been living for more than eighteen months, they would go along with a more measured transfer that would unfold in Oklahoma.  But Family Court Judge Daniel E. Martin, Jr., citing a sworn statement by a social worker named to carry out the transition plan, said that Brown did not show up at the appointed time and place last Sunday to begin the transition.

That, the judge concluded, violated his order requiring the transition plan, and thus that plan has now been scuttled, with the Capobiancos entitled “immediately” to take the child into their custody.   The judge ordered the father to produce the child and turn her over to the Capobiancos, saying that the child “is being unlawfully withheld from her lawful parents.”

The judge sent copies of his ruling to various federal and state officials, asking them to take prompt action to locate “Baby Veronica” and turn her over to the Capobiancos.  The judge also asked courts in Oklahoma to help produce the child.

Posted in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, Featured, Merits Cases

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Speed-up of “Baby Veronica” transfer, SCOTUSblog (Aug. 6, 2013, 3:31 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2013/08/speed-up-of-baby-veronica-transfer/