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Supreme Court rules against biological father in custody case of Native American girl

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A divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that federal law doesn't require that a Native American girl be given back to her biological father, but also doesn't clear her adoptive parents to immediately regain custody of the now 3-year-old child.

The 5-4 decision will send the case back to the South Carolina courts to determine custody of Veronica, who is now being raised by her biological father.

The case centered on the 1978 federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which was enacted to keep Indian children with their families. The Supreme Court ruling determined the law didn't apply to this case because the father had already given up his parental rights before his daughter's biological mother agreed to adoption by a non-Indian family.

More from The New York Times:

Several months after the child's birth, the biological father, Dusten Brown, an enrolled member of the Cherokee tribe, changed his mind and sought custody of his daughter. He said he had not realized that his former fiancee was going to put the child up for adoption. The girl was in the process of being adopted by Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a white couple who raised her for 27 months before South Carolina courts ruled in favor of Mr. Brown.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.