Why the Baby Veronica case matters

On July 31, 2013, the Charleston County Family Court ordered the Matt and Melanie Capobianco will be Baby Veronica’s parents and with a court approved transition she will have both her adoptive parents and biological father in her life. http://www.counton2.com/story/22983997/baby-veronicas-adoption-is-final

if you haven’t followed this case, here is the Supreme Court of the United State’s web site with all of the details of the case, http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/adoptive-couple-v-baby-girl/

To boil it down for you, the child’s mother, who was not married to the baby’s  father, told the father she was pregnant.  He offered to pay for an abortion, then apparently abandoned the pregnant woman, who offered the baby to the adoptive couple.  They cared for the child from birth, and the adoption was set to be finalized when the father, through various means, interceded.  He asserted that his rights to the child as a Native American superseded those of the adoptive parents and that Federal law provided that the child must be removed from the home of the prospective adoptive parents and placed with the biological father whom she had never met.  The case went to the State Supreme Court which agreed with Brown, reluctantly.

However, the United States Supreme Court, which heard the case this summer, said that state law should have been followed.  The justices sent the case back to South Carolina. Once here, the state Supreme Court sent it back to local family court in Charleston, and last week Charleston Family Court finalized the adoption, allowing for a placement plan in which the adoptive parents and the biological father play a role.  The biological father and the Cherokee tribe have vowed to continue the fight for custody.

Why do you care about the fate of one four-year-old part Native American child? Because:

  • What if your son impregnates a young woman and walks away from his responsibility? Does he have the right to come back later and claim that child?
  • What if your daughter doesn’t tell the father of her child she is putting it up for adoption? What if she allows him to think she had an abortion instead? Does that action deny him of his rights to the child?
  • What steps must fathers take to find out about children they “might” have?
  • Should well-meaning people wishing to adopt a child but who later find out about “negative” circumstances be forced to give the child up?
  • At what age is it inappropriate to remove a child from a home with loving “parents”?
  • Is blood thicker than water – do the rights of birth parents trump those of loving and fit non-relative parent-substitutes who have raised a child from birth?
  • What are the Native American tribes rights to children with little Native blood? What percentage native blood is too tenuous a link to a tribe?
  • Should children have multiple parents – can a child have a legal link to a biological and an adoptive parent? Why or why not?

These and many other issues are raised in this case.  It may takes months or years before all of the repercussions of this case make their way into our lives in the form of new legislation.  No matter who you believe the ultimate winner and losers to be in the case of Baby Veronica, we cannot escape the fact that the case will resonate for years and perhaps decades to come.  Do you have a question about adoption? Contact a family law attorney like me. I would be delighted to assist you.