Custody of Baby Vanessa, the toddler born in Ohio, raised in Orange County and, for most of her short life, the subject of a complex inter-state child custody battle, was awarded Monday to her adoptive mother, Stacey Doss of Rancho Santa Margarita, according to NBC Los Angeles.
I have been blogging about this story since last summer, because it touches on a number of important issues regarding Orange County child custody rights, adoption and father’s rights. Last fall Doss won a significant interim victory when an Ohio court ruled that Vanessa should continue living with Doss while legal proceedings unfolded. Yesterday, however, the custody trial (which also took place in Ohio) ended in a clear-cut victory for the Orange County woman, as she was awarded full custody of the girl she has raised since birth.
Doss adopted Vanessa through legal channels, making arrangements with the girl’s biological mother while the latter was still pregnant. In the days immediately following Vanessa’s birth, however, it became clear that the mother had lied (under oath, in court documents) when she said she did not know who the child’s father was. Benjamin Mills, Vanessa’s father, in fact, had two other children with Vanessa’s mother. The pair have had an on-and-off relationship marked by repeated instances of domestic violence over many years. The two older children are being raised by Mills’ mother, who also sought custody of Vanessa as part of the just-concluded legal proceedings, who has legal custody of Vanessa’s older siblings.
According to the Los Angeles Times legal scholars are watching the case closely, believing it “had the potential to go to the Supreme Court to explore the issue of children’s rights in foster care situations.” As a result of yesterday’s ruling Doss now has full custody of the girl but the grandmother will have visitation rights. These will be limited at first, but are expected to grow over time as Vanessa becomes better able to comprehend her situation. Mills, the biological father, will be able to see Vanessa only in limited circumstances. According to NBC LA these meetings will have to take place in public places during daytime hours.
Sorting through complex, emotionally difficult issues like these is never easy. Enlisting the assistance of an experienced Orange County family law attorney can, however, be an essential step toward protecting both your rights as a parent – be it biological or adoptive – safeguarding the child’s best interests and maintaining the relationship you deserve with your kids.
NBC LA: OC woman will keep Baby Vanessa