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Lawyers in custody case seek to recoup fees

NOWATA, Okla. — Attorneys for the adoptive parents of a 4-year-old girl caught up in a custody dispute have filed paperwork seeking $1 million in legal fees from the Cherokee Nation and the girl’s biological father, who has dropped all legal claims to his daughter.

Attorneys representing Matt and Melanie Capobianco filed the paperwork in Nowata County seeking the legal fees incurred while fighting the lengthy custody battle over 4-year-old Veronica.

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In September, Dusten Brown handed Veronica over to the Capobiancos after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an emergency stay keeping the girl in Oklahoma.

Veronica has been the subject of court battles since she was born to a non-Cherokee mother, who put the girl up for adoption. The Capobiancos had been lined up to receive custody since 2009.

Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, pressed claims under the Indian Child Welfare Act and won custody when the girl was 27 months old. The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 with the intent of reducing the high rates of Native American children being adopted by non-Native American families.

The Capobiancos’ lawyers worked pro bono, said Lori Alvino McGill, a Washington attorney who traveled to Oklahoma to represent the couple.

‘‘They could not possibly have afforded to pay,’’ Alvino McGill said. ‘‘But even in pro bono representations, lawyers are permitted to recoup their fees and expenses.’’

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