A 4-year-old Cherokee girl known as "Baby Veronica," who is at the center of a cross-country custody battle, was handed back to her adoptive non-Native American family on Monday, a Cherokee Nation spokeswoman told Reuters.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court earlier on Monday cleared the way for the girl to be transferred from the custody of her biological father in Oklahoma, Dusten Brown, with whom she has lived for nearly two years.
Brown gave Veronica to her white adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco of South Carolina, at about 7 p.m. CDT on Monday (midnight GMT), said Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Amanda Clinton.
No details were available on where the handover took place.
"The transition was voluntary and handled peacefully by all parties," Clinton said. "We ask that everyone please keep Veronica in your prayers tonight."
Oklahoma's top court lifted a stay it had imposed on Aug. 30 that had kept Veronica in Oklahoma where she has lived for the past two years while Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, fought the adoption.
The case has highlighted overlapping parental claims in two states - as well as the clash between a Native American culture seeking to protect children from being adopted outside their tribes and U.S. legal safeguards for adoptive parents.
The Capobiancos have been in Oklahoma for the past month and have been allowed to visit Veronica, who lived with them for the first two years of her life, according to a family spokeswoman.
Veronica's birth mother, who is not Native American, arranged the adoption with the Capobiancos before the girl was born. Brown has argued he did not know the mother would give her up for adoption when he signed away his parental rights.
Brown, who was not married to the birth mother, argued that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 allowed him to have custody of Veronica, who is 3/256th Cherokee. A South Carolina family court agreed with him and he took custody of her in 2011.
But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that ruling and decided the act did not apply. Her adoption by the Capobiancos was finalized in July, but Brown refused to turn her over.
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