Saturday, April 20, 2013

THE BABY VERONICA CASE IS NOW BEFORE THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

The case involving the adoption of Veronica is before the U.S. Supreme Court.  It is a heartbreaking case that pits state adoption law against the Indian Child Welfare Act.  There are legitimate legal interests on all sides.  Until the 1960’s Native American children were often stolen from their mothers in hospitals shortly after birth, and given up to Anglo families for adoption. Sometimes the “kidnappers” were state agencies.  The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted for the purpose of correcting this injustice.  The Act takes precedence over state adoption laws and gives tribal courts the right to determine adoption placement of children of Native American heritage.

But in the case of baby Veronica, did the sharp focus on legal issues, jurisdiction, public policy, and politics cause the courts to lose sight of the most important thing of all – the best interests of a child?


This case starts out like many others: A woman becomes pregnant.  The father isn’t interested in taking responsibility for parenthood.  The mother decides to place the baby for adoption. The father signs away his parental rights.  The baby is born and is placed with adoptive parents.  But four months after the baby’s birth, this case takes an abrupt turn.  The father changes his mind, claiming that he thought he was signing away his rights to the biological mother, and that he never knew the baby would be placed for adoption (note: he had abandoned the mother during her pregnancy and made no effort to see the child, or pay support, after the child was born). 

Because the father was a member of the Cherokee Nation, he invoked his rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act and asserted that he was entitled to full custody.  (The mother was not Native-American.)  In December, 2011 the South Carolina Courts ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act trumped state law.  Baby Veronica, now two years old, was ripped out of the arms of the adoptive parents who had loved her and bonded with her; and she was handed, screaming hysterically, to a man she had never met.

The adoptive parents appealed, and today the case is before the U.S. Supreme Court.  This is a matter in which the interests on both sides are legitimate and compelling.  You can read an excellent examination of the competing views in the NPR article at the following link:  http://www.npr.org/2013/04/16/177327391/adoption-case-brings-rare-family-law-dispute-to-high-court?utm_source=NPR&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=20130416=.

Hopefully, the nine Supreme Court justices will be able to cut through the thick fog of politics and legal issues, and come up with the best solution for this one young, innocent, child - Baby Veronica.



Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law Attorney and a children's advocate.  For many years, he represented children in child abuse and neglect cases in Superior Court.  He has been appointed to serve on the Governor's Child Abuse Prevention Task Force.  He won a Maricopa County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer of the Month Award for representing a child in a Family Court Custody Action and successfully petitioning to have the case transferred to Juvenile Court, where the child could be protected from her abusive parents.  Our law firm focuses on Family Law Matters, including Divorce, contested Custody matters, Parenting Time disputes, Relocation/move-away cases, Enforcement and Modification actions, Child and Spousal Support, Paternity/Maternity, Grandparent and Non-Parent rights, Mediation, and all other matters involving families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation to learn about your rights, please call us today at 602-383-3610; or contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  To learn more about our firm, check out our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We'd be happy to help you.