- Cherokee attorney says the transfer was "peaceful"
- Adoptive family says this brings closure but not a happy ending
- Biological father wanted to avoid a showdown, attorney says
- Child has been center of custody battle since she was born four years ago
The 4-year-old girl at the center of a lengthy, high-profile custody dispute between her Native American father and her adoptive parents has been returned to the couple, an attorney for the biological father said Monday.
Earlier in the day, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Dusten Brown, the girl's father, must return the girl, named Veronica, to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who live in South Carolina.
The Capobiancos adopted Veronica at birth in 2009 and have been involved in a custody battle since then with Brown, who lives in Oklahoma.
According to an earlier written statement from the family after the court announcement, their "long legal nightmare" is over.
"Matt and Melanie cannot wait to bring Veronica home and begin the healing process as a reunited family," the statement said.
Brown is a registered member of the Cherokee tribe and invoked the Indian Child Welfare Act to gain custody of Veronica.
His attorney, Clark Brewster, said Brown handed Veronica over Monday night.
The Cherokee Nation Attorney General also issued a statement late Monday night in response to the news, praising Brown for the "peaceful and dignified" transfer of Veronica to her adoptive parents, and saying the 4-year-old would "always be a Cherokee citizen."
"Although this is not something any parent should ever have to do, we could not be more proud of the dignity and courage with which [Brown] carried himself," the statement read.
A family court judge had ruled in Brown's favor in late 2011, and he took his daughter to Oklahoma. The Capobiancos had fought since to have Veronica returned, arguing federal law does not define an unwed biological father as a parent.
In June, a divided U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Capobiancos, who are white, but Brown had refused to hand over the child.