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Oklahoma Supreme Court issues stay in custody case

A South Carolina couple say they are rightful parents to Veronica, 3.

A South Carolina couple say they are rightful parents to Veronica, 3.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A custody fight over a 3-year-old Cherokee girl shifted to Oklahoma’s highest court Tuesday as lawyers gathered to discuss who should raise the child: a South Carolina couple who have attempted to adopt her since birth or the girl’s biological father, who claims a federal law requires that she be raised in a Native American home.

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court said earlier on Tuesday that it had granted an emergency stay Friday that keeps young Veronica with her father, Dusten Brown, and members of his family. Matt and Melanie Capobianco, of Charleston, S.C., say they are the rightful parents and have a South Carolina court order to prove it.

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The dispute has raised questions about jurisdictions, tribal sovereignty, and the federal law meant to help keep Native American tribes together. Veronica’s birth mother is not Native American.

Brown and the Capobiancos were present at the Oklahoma Supreme Court chambers for nearly 90 minutes Tuesday but left without comment. Family court proceedings are typically held in private, but courts have also ordered all parties not to talk about the case publicly. Two highway patrol troopers stood guard outside the hearing. After the hearing concluded, Brown left the court, about five minutes before the Capobiancos.

A court referee who conducted the hearing is expected to decide whether the full Oklahoma Supreme Court should hear the case.

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