The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the "Baby Veronica" case in April, says a March 7 article about the case. At issue is the custody of Baby Veronica, the biological daughter of Christina Maldonado, a white woman, and Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation. The couple was never married. Maldonado made an adoption plan for Veronica shortly after her birth.
The court will determine whether Brown relinquished his parental rights and consented to Baby Veronica's adoption. Veronica's birthmother did give her consent, and for a short time, Baby Veronica resided with Matt and Melanie Capobianco, her would-be adoptive parents.
When Veronica was four months old, Brown did sign papers consenting to the adoption. At issue is whether he understood what he was consenting to. Shortly after signing, he retained a lawyer and moved to have the adoption proceedings halted. When Brown contested the adoption, the lower courts ruled in his favor and awarded him custody of Baby Veronica. The lower courts cited the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, which was intended to preserve a child's Native American heritage, in part by controlling adoptions that may occur outside of the child's tribe and without the tribe's knowledge. The Capobiancos have appealed the decision various times, finally landing at the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling will finally determine who should have custody of Veronica, now three years old. Additionally, experts say that the ruling will set precedent for future cases related to the Indian Child Welfare Act.