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Baby Veronica child custody case resolved in Cherokee Nation

The long-disputed question of who will raise "Baby Veronica" has been resolved in a high-profile child custody case. The decision, handed down by a Cherokee Nation court, grants joint custody of the child to the wife of the biological father and the father's parents. The biological father, Iraq combat veteran Dusten Brown, is currently doing National Guard training, which is why custody has been awarded to his wife and his parents.

Separately, the Supreme Court of South Carolina issued an order that Baby Veronica be returned to live with her adoptive parents, who reside in a Charleston suburb. The Cherokee Nation tribe has asked the Supreme Court of South Carolina to revisit that decision, and concur with the tribe's decision about joint custody.

The child in the case, Veronica, is almost four years old. Her biological father has had custody since 2011, and she has lived with him in Nowata. Both father and daughter are members of the Cherokee Nation. Noting this fact, the tribe's Principal Chief Bill John Baker said it was "troubling" that the South Carolina Supreme Court would act to terminate Brown's parental rights. He characterizes Brown as "a fit and loving father," and indicates that remaining in his care is in the best interests of little Veronica.

This view is echoed by the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, Jacqueline Pata. She says that the South Carolina Supreme Court's decision to give Veronica to the adoptive couple is a part of a "long and sordid history" of Native Americans having their own children taken from them.

Biological father Brown had won custody in 2011 after making the case that the Cherokee heritage he shares with his daughter should mean that Veronica stays with him instead of returning to the adoptive couple. At the time, a court agreed with him. However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision just last month, which in turn let the South Carolina Supreme Court give custody of Victoria to the adoptive couple over her father's objections.

The Native American Rights Fund has pledged to do all they can to keep father and daughter together. Along with the National Indian Child Welfare Association and the National Congress of American Indians, they are going to file a civil rights lawsuit to help Veronica stay with her dad.

There are many complex issues to be addressed in child custody legal cases. But at the forefront -- whether highly publicized in the media, or applying to regular folks in Texas -- are the best interests of the children. Let child custody attorneys be stewards to navigate these sensitive waters toward the most agreeable outcome for all involved.

Tulsa World, "Cherokee Nation court grants joint custody of Baby Veronica to biological father's wife and parents" Michael Overall, Jul. 22, 2013

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