State Supreme Court orders Veronica adoption finalized

Dusten Brown and Veronica.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the finalization of Baby Veronica's adoption to the Capobiancos.

The court's order nearly ends the saga between the James Island couple and Veronica's biological father, who has tried to claim rights on the Indian Child Welfare Act.

"We are grateful. Grateful. Grateful. This is finally over," the Capobiancos said Wednesday."She is coming home."

The family's spokeswoman, Jessica Munday, said the timeline on the transfer of Veronica will be done quickly -- likely within the next few weeks.

The family issued an official statement a short time later, saying they were looking forward to the day Veronica returned to their home.

"We are thrilled that after 18 long months, our daughter finally will be coming home. We look forward to seeing Veronica's smiling face in the coming days and will do everything in our power to make her homecoming as smooth as possible.{} We also want to thank everyone who has supported us throughout this ordeal.{} Our prayers have been answered," the family said.

Lori Alvino McGill, the attorney for Veronica's birth mother, Christinna Maldonado, said she was thrilled at the court's decision, but had not yet spoken to Maldonado. She called the ruling "huge" and "gratifying."

"I am just over the moon by this news. All I've ever wanted was to give Veronica a life with Matt and Melanie, a life I could not provide for her. It has torn at my heart every day that she has been apart from them, and I have missed being a part of their life over the past 18 months," Maldonado said. "I am anxious to see her again as soon as possible after she settles in back home in South Carolina."

The Cherokee Nation said Wednesday afternoon that they were upset by the court's decision.

"We are outraged and saddened that the South Carolina Supreme Court would order the transfer of this child without a hearing to determine what is in her best interests, particularly in light of the fact that this very same court previously found: 'We cannot say that Baby Girl's best interests are not served by the grant of custody to Father, as Appellants have not presented evidence that Baby Girl would not be safe, loved, and cared for if raised by Father and his family,'" a statement from the Tribe reads.

It went on to call Dusten Brown, Veronica's birth father, "a fit, loving parent."

"That should be enough," the Cherokee Nation said, adding Brown would not be making a statement about the ruling on Wednesday.

The National Indian Child Welfare Association expressed disbelief in the decision, saying the court's move will be one for debate and questions.

"Tonight a little girl will go to bed secure, safe, and surrounded by her loving family in Oklahoma. Through a stunning decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court today, it is uncertain how many more of these moments the Brown family will share," the group said.

"Tonight, our only thoughts are with Veronica."

The case has been remanded back to family court to be finalized. Brown and The Cherokee Nation will have five days to file for a rehearing in state court, or the adoption will be finalized.

"The family court shall promptly dispose of all such motions and matters so as to not delay the entry of the adoption and the return of baby Girl to the Adoptive Couple," the state Supreme Court writes.

According to court documents, Brown, in a motion to remand the case back to family court filed earlier this month, claimed jurisdiction of the case should be transferred to Oklahoma where Veronica has lived for 18 months, and cited her best interests because of her development over the last 18 months.

"We deny Birth Father's motion in its entirety. Because we can resolve the issues of law here, nothing would be accomplished by a de novo hearing in the Family Court, except further delay and heartache for all involved -- especially Baby Girl," the order reads.

The state Supreme Court said the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June paved the way for the state courts to finalize the adoption. The ruling explains that having ICWA abandoned, the precedent turns to state law, which states that the father's consent for adoption was not required based on the specifics of the case.

"There is absolutely no need to compound any suffering that Baby Girl may experience through continued litigation. As it stands, Adoptive Couple is the only party who has a petition pending for the adoption of Baby Girl, and thus, theirs is the only application that should be considered at this stage," the ruling reads.

The Capobiancos have not had contact with Veronica since New Year's Eve 2011 when she was 27 months old.

The case began as Maldonado was working to finalize the adoption to the Capobiancos. The James Island couple went through the entire birth process with her in preparation of the adoption.

In 2010, brown filed suit, claiming he unknowingly gave up his rights to his child. He argued Veronica was part Cherokee and the Indian Child Welfare Act allowed him to stop the adoption.

The claim was upheld in a 3-2 decision by the state Supreme Court, but the U.S. Supreme Court granted a hearing of the case.

In June, a divided Supreme Court ruled that the federal law was not a basis for the state Supreme Court's ruling and sent the case back to South Carolina.

On July 3, Brown filed to move the case to family court and to Oklahoma, where he is currently living with Veronica. A few days later, the Capobiancos filed for custody.

"This has been the most emotionally draining process that any parent could ever go through," said Munday. "Friends, family members, the community -- we've all been right there with this family and supporting them and their love for Veronica. And we're just so thankful out state justices upheld what the U.S. justice said."

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