BABY VERONICA CASE TAKES A HEARTBREAKING TWIST

I have written several times over the past year about the Baby Veronica case.  As an infant, little Veronica was given up for adoption by her birth mother after it appeared that the father had abandoned her.  However, the father. who was part Native American, later asserted his custodial rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act.  In 2011, a South Carolina family court judge ruled in favor of the father.  As a result, the child – who had now lived with her adoptive family for almost all of her two years – was ripped out of the arms of the only mother and father she had ever known.  She was placed in the car of a man who was a stranger, and was driven away.  

The adoptive parents appealed, and the decision was ultimately overturned.  An appeals court ruled that the child must be returned to the adoptive parents.  The father then appealed to the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided not to intervene.  That meant the prior ruling would stand.  It was final.  The case was over. 

Baby Veronica – who had by now lived with her biological father for more than a year, and had probably bonded with him – would have to be returned to her adoptive parents.

But that’s not the end of the story.

When the time came for the biological father to hand the child over, he was nowhere to be found.  The Sheriff’s Office in Charleston, South Carolina issued a warrant for his arrest.  On Monday, the father turned himself in.  He was taken into custody and later released on a $10,000 bond.  

Then, after his release, the father once again, disappeared — and Baby Veronica is missing.

Over the weekend, the father told CNN that he is willing to go to jail.  “I’m going to fight till I have no fight left in me and till they say you can’t fight no more. This is my daughter.  It’s not a yo-yo that I can just say, hey, I borrowed it for two years and here’s it back.”

The adoptive parents are grief-stricken.  They recently gave this statement:  “With every passing hour, we fear more and more for her safety and well-being.  If anything should happen to our daughter while she’s being left in the hands of those who hold her captive from us, the responsibility will be shared by many.”

Meanwhile, Baby Veronica remains in the eye of the hurricane.  She is the innocent victim here.  This poor child has been bounced back and forth like a ping pong ball.  Each time she has the chance to bond with an adult caregiver, she is yanked away and handed to someone else.  By now, she may have developed emotional scars that could last a lifetime.

This is a stunning example of how children can fall through the cracks of the legal system.  Father’s have rights.  Mother’s have rights.  Grandparents, and step-parents, and biological parents, and adoptive parents all have rights.  But in the process of asserting those rights, sometimes the best interests of the child are forgotten.  Sometimes, while the war is being waged in one courtroom after another, children like Baby Veronica are damaged.  And when that happens, it affects us all. 


Gary Frank, has been a courtroom litigator in the Family Law arena for over thirty years, and is a strong and committed advocate for his clients.  In addition to being a litigation attorney, Mr. Frank has acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tem in the Maricopa County Superior Court.  This has given him an understanding of the inner-workings of the court, and a unique perspective  that most attorneys lack.  He has also acted, for many years, as a professional mediator of Family Law disputes.   We handle a full range of Family Law matters, including divorce, custody / legal decision-making, parenting-time, child support, spousal maintenance, division of property and assets, modification and enforcement actions, as well paternity/maternity cases, grandparent or non-parent custody and visitation actions, and relocation/move-away cases.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to give our office a call today at 602-383-3610; or feel free to contact us through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com; or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.   We’d be happy to help you.


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.

BABY VERONICA RULING – DID THE COURT TRULY CONSIDER THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD?

The Indian Child Welfare Act, enacted in the 1970’s, was intended t
The Indian Child Welfare Act, enacted in the 1970’s, was intended to protect Native American Children and their tribes. For decades, many Native American children were taken (some were literally stolen) from their parents and sent to anglo families for adoption. (According to CNN, at one point, 30% of children on reservations were taken from their parents.) The Indian Child Welfare Act was meant to correct this horrible injustice, and others like it.

But in the 2012 case of Baby Veronica, the law may have been applied unfairly. Veronica’s biological father abandoned the mother during the pregnancy. He did not attend the birth. He paid no support and made no effort to see the child after she was born. When Veronica turned four months old, he signed a waiver of his parental rights. However, two weeks later, he changed his mind and commenced legal action to have the child returned to him. This week, the South Carolina Supreme Court finally issued its ruling, requiring that Veronica be returned to the biological father. 

Veronica is now two years old. She’s not a newborn baby, she is an intelligent little person. She was abandoned by her father, and voluntarily placed by her mother with an adoptive family who raised her with love and care. Now she is bonded with her adoptive parents. Yet, the Court required her to be handed to a stranger, who happens to be her biological father.  She was placed in a car and driven away from the only family she has ever known, as if she were a puppy. Did the South Carolina Supreme Court truly consider the “best interests” of this child?  What do you think?  




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 was appointed to serve on the Governor’s Arizona 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, custody, 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 602-421-403; 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.




ren were taken (some were literally stolen) from their parents and sent to anglo families for adoption. (According to CNN, at one point, 30% of children on reservations were taken from their parents.) The Indian Child Welfare Act was meant to correct this horrible injustice, and others like it.

But in the 2012 case of Baby Veronica, the law may have been applied unfairly. Veronica’s biological father abandoned the mother during the pregnancy. He did not attend the birth. He paid no support and made no effort to see the child after she was born. When Veronica turned four months old, he signed a waiver of his parental rights. However, two weeks later, he changed his mind and commenced legal action to have the child returned to him. This week, the South Carolina Supreme Court finally issued its ruling, requiring that Veronica be returned to the biological father.

Veronica is now two years old. She’s not a newborn baby, she is an intelligent little person. She was abandoned by her father, and voluntarily placed by her mother with an adoptive family who raised her with love and care. Now she is bonded with her adoptive parents. Yet, the Court required her to be handed to a stranger, placed in a car, and driven away from the only family she has ever known, as if she were a puppy.

Did the South Carolina Supreme Court truly consider the “best interests” of this child?




Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law Attorney with over thirty years of experience, dealing with divorce, custody, parenting time, modification and enforcement actions, relocation cases, and all aspects of Family Law.  Above all, he is an advocate for children.  If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610.  You can also reach us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We look forward to assisting you.