There has been a new development in the long-running custody battle over the toddler known as Baby Vanessa. According to MyFoxLA (the website for TV stations KTTV and KCOP), a three judge appeals court panel has ruled the child can stay with her Orange County adoptive mother, at least for the immediate future.
As I have noted in several earlier posts, Stacey Doss of Santa Ana is the only parent the girl has ever known, but discovered shortly after Vanessa’s birth that the birth mother lied when she claimed not to know who Vanessa’s father was. The father, who had known nothing of the adoption arrangement, learned of Vanessa’s birth after-the-fact and has fought ever since to assert his father’s rights and reclaim custody of his daughter.
As I’ve written in earlier posts, there are several complicating factors. First, the case stretches across state lines (Doss lives in Orange County, the birth parents are both from Ohio) and a number of jurisdictional questions remain unresolved. Second, the biological father, Benjamin Mills, has a checkered past with the birth mother, including charges of domestic violence, and does not care for the several children he already has. These children are cared for by Mills’ mother – Baby Vanessa’s biological grandmother – who (complication #3) has herself asserted a custody claim.
The latest ruling, allowing Vanessa to remain with Ms Doss for the time being, may have little bearing on the final outcome of the case. As MyFoxLA notes, “a trial over custody is scheduled to begin December 6 in Ohio. The (California) appellate judges today doubted they have any authority in those proceedings.” Put another way, the latest decision seems focused more on the short term – the potential disruption of moving the child back-and-forth while the case remains unresolved – and does not necessarily set a long-term precedent.
Whether Mills will look at it this way remains to be seen. Since the idea that she is the only parent Vanessa knows lies at the core of Doss’ Orange County custody argument, Mills, in asserting his Orange County fathers rights, could be forgiven for believing that every month the child remains with Doss weakens his chances of eventually obtaining justice in this lengthy, complex case.
These sort of complexities are reminders of the reason our legal system is built around the advice of skilled, experienced attorneys. An Orange County child custody lawyer can offer essential advice and guidance to parents facing the often confusing world of our court system. When facing an Orange County father’s rights dilemma, the assistance of an Orange County family law attorney is something few can afford to be without.