Oklahoma Girl's Adoption Dispute in Supreme Court Today - KTUL.com - Tulsa, Oklahoma - News, Weather & Sports

Oklahoma Girl's Adoption Dispute in Supreme Court Today

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Veronica with her birth father Dusten Brown in this photo provided by the Cherokee Nation. Veronica with her birth father Dusten Brown in this photo provided by the Cherokee Nation.

A custody battle involving an Oklahoma child will head to the Supreme Court today as justices take another look at the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The legal fight centers around a little girl named Veronica. She was adopted by Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina shortly after she was born.

But her birth father, Dusten Brown, lives in Oklahoma and is a member of the Cherokee Nation. Brown regained custody in 2011 under the Indian Child Welfare Act -- a law meant to protect Native American tribe culture by keeping American Indian children with their American Indian parents.

Former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon says the strict legal question before the justices will be whether or not the biological father in this case is a "parent" in the meaning of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

There are reports that the biological father, Dusten Brown, did not provide emotional or financial support to Veronica's mother during the pregnancy.

The Justices will want to make clear what a parent means under the act and whether federal law should take precedent over state law.

"If you look at South Carolina state law they have some winning arguments that the baby should stay here," Condon said. "It's a very interesting mix of factual, legal questions and interplay between the federal and state government that involves this really emotional subject of where the child should stay."

The Indian Child Welfare Act has only been taken up by the Supreme Court twice since it was enacted in 1978.

"The fact that the Supreme Court took jurisdiction in this case is a positive development because otherwise they would have been out of luck and the baby would have remained with the father," Former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon says. "So it's very positive that the Supreme Court is hearing this."

"It's a challenging case though because that statute gives very strong presence for that child remaining with the father so I do believe that they do have a challenge ahead of them to win this case."

A ruling on the case by the Supreme Court is expected to come down in June.

- Stefanie Bainum, for KTUL.com

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