Complicated twists have become the norm in the two-year battle between the adoptive parents of little girl known as "baby Veronica" and the girl's biological father.
After the Oklahoma courts rather unexpectedly lifted its stay last Monday, in essence restoring a custody order from South Carolina, Dusten Brown, the biological father, relinquished custody of Veronica to Matt and Melanie Capobianco.
There was talk of a peaceful transition, a happy child and a commitment by all adults involved that they'd put the best interest of Veronica at the forefront. Then, rather suddenly, within hours of the couple's return home to Charleston with Veronica, a flurry of reports hit the media claiming that the Capobiancos had filed suit against Brown for legal fees or living expenses incurred during the two-year custody challenge.
Although the Capobiancos are currently under a gag order, family spokesperson Jessica Munday maintains that the couple is not suing Brown. "The rumors stem from a contempt proceeding in South Carolina family court, which issued an 'order to show cause' and set a hearing to determine whether Dusten Brown and the Cherokee Nation should be held in civil contempt for their defiance of the order to return Veronica to her parents for seven weeks after the order was issued," she says.
Sheriff Al Cannon of Charleston County says that the South Carolina taxpayers are out about $14,000 that was spent for authorities to twice travel to Oklahoma to assist in enforcing the court ordered custody transfer.
This is the latest turn in a saga that has had no shortage of emotional turns. What began as a straight-forward domestic adoption story when Veronica's birth mother placed Veronica with the Capobiancos from the moment of her birth, descended into a hellish legal battle that involved two states, multiple jurisdictions and even the Supreme Court.
Brown did not financially support Veronica's birth mother while she was pregnant and he had never met Veronica. However, 27 months after the she began living with the Capobiancos, he filed for custody.
Brown claims Cherokee heritage and as a member of the tribe, he invoked a federal law called the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was designed to keep Native Americans with their tribes. A South Carolina court awarded Brown custody and ordered that she be removed from the Capbiancos' home.
For the past two years Veronica lived with Brown and was allowed no contact with her parents. The Capobiancos appealed the South Carolina decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. The South Carolina court then reversed the state's prior decision and ordered that Veronica be returned to her parents.
In August, the Capobiancos traveled to Oklahoma to pick up their daughter, but Brown refused to relinquish custody of the child. With the help of the Cherokee Nation, he appealed to an Oklahoma court, contending that that the U.S. Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction over a sovereign nation. In response, the Oklahoma court granted an emergency stay, which led to Brown's refusal to transfer custody to the Capobiancos. He ultimately was arrested for his failure to comply with a court order, charged with custodial interference.
The Capobiancos remained in Oklahoma although they were denied visitation with Veronica, and battled Brown in court for more than a month until the Oklahoma court lifted the stay last week, enabling them to return to South Carolina with the girl.
The Cherokee Nation has vowed to continue the fight to bring Veronica back to Oklahoma.