TODAY

TODAY   |  October 25, 2014

3-year-old girl at center of custody dispute

A 3-year-old girl is at the center of a bitter custody battle between a South Carolina couple who adopted her and the girl’s biological father. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>> but first the bitter custody fight between a 3-year-old's biological father and her adopted parents. here's kristen welker.

>> reporter: she is only 3 years old but for most of her life two families have been fighting to call her their own. she lives in oklahoma with her biological father and his wife robin.

>> i'll fight until i have no more fight left in me.

>> we are not giving up on her ever.

>> reporter: but for her first two years her home was in south carolina with her adoptive parents. the bitter custody battle started in 2009 when veronica's parents split up. her biological mother asked brown to give her custody. brown agreed writing in a text message i think that i will just sign my rites away and he later signed the paperwork. about to deploy to iraq, brown said he never realized his daughter could be put up for adoption.

>> i never knew what i was signing. i just thought that i was just signing, you know, for her to have full custody, you know, be able to make all the right decisions for my daughter while i was gone.

>> reporter: in 2011 a south carolina court ruled that brown who is a member of the cherokee nation should have custody of his daughter under a federal law which seeks to keep native american children with their parents.

>> the case went to the supreme court that ruled that the federal statue did not apply.

>> because he had not been a part of the child's life he was not entitled to say the child is deprived of his heritage.

>> reporter: they ordered brown to return veronica but he did not show up with her siting his national guard training. now the court is demanding that brown hand her over immediately. all of this with veronica turning four next month.

>> there's no doubt in my mind that i'm not going to be there. i'm going to be there for my daughter's birthday.

>> we missed her third birthday but we don't want to miss anymore birthdays.

>> right now all that's sure is both families will face-off again next week in court. for today, kristen welker nbc news washington.