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Four-Year Adoption Battle Involving Cherokee Nation Member Finally Ends

Adoptions can be tricky.ICWA-thumb-275x412-73954.jpg

Consider this: An unmarried, pregnant woman, who received no financial or emotional support from the biological father, decided to place her child up for adoption through a government agency. The agency found a deserving couple and the adoption of baby Veronica was finalized in 2009.

But the case didn't end there.

After the adoption Dusten Brown, the biological father and a member of the Cherokee Nation, contested the adoption. He alleged that his former lover lied about the child's true heritage and that the reason he'd agreed to relinquish his parental rights was to avoid paying child support.

The adopted parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, and Brown took their disagreements to court. The Capobiancos appealed a lower court decision awarding custody to Brown, causing the case to land at the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Adoption of Native American Children

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 provided a wrinkle in the case. This law was a response to decades of social service practices resulting in the separation of large numbers of native youngsters from their families, mostly to non-Indian homes. The intent of the legislation was to "promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and Indian families."

Other issues were central to this case as well. The justices wondered whether Brown, as the one-time non-custodial father, could win parental custody once the mother initiated an adoption outside the tribe.

The U.S. Supreme Court debated the father's lack of support during the pregnancy and his refusal to pay child support. Justices also argued whether an unmarried man can even be legally defined as a parent. Eventually, our nation's highest court ruled against Brown and a South Carolina court finalized the adoption.

But the case didn't end there.

Adoption Fight Lasted Four Years

Brown decided to sue the Capobiancos in Oklahoma, where he lived. Meanwhile he retained custody of Veronica for the next two years as the court battle continued.

The case finally came to a conclusion this week, when the Capobiancos were awarded custody of the child and the court battles drew to an end.

As a side note, the Obama administration supported the birth father and the continued use of the Indian Child Welfare Act law.

Do you have questions about a pending adoption?

Do you have questions about your divorce, family law, children's issues, same-sex unions, juvenile dependency, adoption, or spousal support? If so, call me or schedule a consultation with the Law Offices of James V. Sansone at 707-623-1875 or contact me by email. You can find additional information onfamily law, children's issues, spousal support, domestic violence as well as a list of resources you'll find helpful on our website.

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