COLUMBIA — A judge is set to consider this week how to transfer a girl of Cherokee heritage from her biological father in Oklahoma to the South Carolina couple seeking to adopt her.
Matt and Melanie Capobianco have a hearing in family court in Charleston on Wednesday, court records show.
The couple have been seeking to adopt Veronica, a now-3-year-old girl of Cherokee heritage, since her birth in 2009.
The girl’s biological father, who had never met his daughter, challenged the attempt, saying federal law favored that the girl be raised by him and grow up learning tribal traditions.
The South Carolina Supreme Court initially agreed with Dusten Brown’s arguments, ruling in 2011 that under the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, Veronica should be raised by him in Oklahoma, where she went to live that year.
The Capobiancos challenged that ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled earlier this year that South Carolina’s court system should determine who gets to adopt the girl.
Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court issued a second ruling in accordance with that decision, saying a Family Court should finalize the Capobiancos’ adoption of Veronica.
Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s proceedings, litigation over the girl and the issues in the adoption is far from over.
Her biological father has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the adoption, arguing that state justices misread the high court’s June ruling and did not take account of Veronica’s interests. The Cherokee Nation, of which Brown is a member, also joined in the plea.
The girl’s biological mother has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, saying a law governing the placement of Indian children is unconstitutional and asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for a declaration that parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act are illegal.
Several American Indian groups have said they planned to file a federal lawsuit to protect Veronica’s interests if the state court denied the request. They say a hearing is needed to determine her best interests.
That lawsuit has yet to be filed, and the federal government has filed no response to the biological mother’s claim. In the U.S. Supreme Court action, Chief Justice John Roberts has set a deadline of Friday for responses to Brown’s claim – two days after the adoption hearing in South Carolina.