Regular readers of this blog may be familiar with the case of Baby Veronica, a 4-year-old girl who was, until recently, the center of a long and complicated child custody dispute. Last month, however, the issue was finally decided, and Baby Veronica was sent home.
The Baby Veronica case began in 2009, when the girl, then just a newborn, was adopted from a single mother in Oklahoma into a family from South Carolina. The baby’s father, a man of Native American descent, objected to the adoption, however. He fought to stop the adoption by invoking the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which states that Native Americans have the right, in most cases, to block certain actions that remove their biological children from their custody.
The law was intended to allow Native American families to maintain their own cultural heritage and ensure that Native Americans would be able to pass their beliefs and traditions down to future generations.
In this case, however, the adoptive family fought back against the biological father’s actions, stating that since he never had custody of the baby, he could not use the Indian Child Welfare Act in this way.
A long and complicated court battle ensued, one that eventually reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the adoptive family, stating that the biological father could not assert his claim to block the adoption because “he had been absent from the child’s life.”
Last month, Baby Veronica was finally given over to the adoptive parents, with whom she had lived for over two years at the beginning of her life.
Fortunately, most child custody cases are not as long or as contentious as this one. Though custody cases can be acrimonious at times, judges and attorneys involved in such situations always try to work towards the same goal: to determine the best interests of the child. This, then, is the solution that is always followed by the court: the legal option that best serves the best interests of the child.
CBS News, ““Baby Veronica” handed over to adoptive parents, Cherokee Nation confirms” No author given, Sep. 24, 2013