Thursday, August 12, 1999

Justin's parents drop suit

Custody fight for boy continues

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The biological parents of 2-year-old Justin, caught in a two-state adoption battle, have decided to stop pursuing a civil lawsuit against the Girard, Ohio, couple that wants to adopt him.

        Eric Deters, attorney for biological parents Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Covington, said the suit was dismissed for practical reasons. But the Ohio couple, Rich and Cheryl Asente, con tend they never put much stock in it anyway.

        “I thought it was kind of frivolous,” Mr. Asente said. “This was about money. If anyone had the right to sue for breach of contract, it was the opposite.”

        Mr. Asente questioned why the biological parents would try to get damages from them when they already have about $200,000 in legal fees and are raising Ms. Moore's and Mr. Dorning's other biological son, Joey, now 3, whom they formally adopted. Justin still lives with them, too.

        “In essence, they're bankrupting Joey's parents,” Mr. Asente said.

        However, “it was just a practical and strategic reason,” Mr. Deters said of the decision to not pursue the civil lawsuit in Kenton Circuit Court. “It was simply a pragmatic decision.

        “There is so much going on. With all that is going on in both Ohio and Kentucky, it's my opinion that no court would ever award or inject themselves on a breach of contract issue.”

        Mr. Deters still is repre senting Justin's biological parents in the litigation filed against their former attorney, Thomas Donnelly, for negligence. That lawsuit will be at a standstill until Justin's custody is decided.

        When Justin was almost a year old, he was sent to live with the Asentes. She and Mr. Dorning had signed consent forms to start adoption proceedings, but only with the understanding that they would have time to change their minds.

        They did, and the couple has been fighting to have the child returned to them almost ever since. Meanwhile, the Asentes have refused their request and have been trying to adopt the child in Ohio since June, 1998.

        Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe ruled earlier this year that Justin must be returned to his biological parents because they did not make an informed decision when they let the original placement happen.

        Meanwhile, an Ohio judge ruled Ohio had jurisdiction and ruled the adoption case should proceed.

        The Asentes have appealed the Kentucky ruling with the Kentucky Supreme Court, which is pending, and an Aug. 24 hearing is set before the Ohio Court of Appeals so that attorneys for both couples can make arguments about which state — Ohio or Kentucky — should have jurisdiction of the case.

        No matter the decision, Columbus attorney Susan Eisenman, who is representing the Asentes, already has said that she expects the case to advance to the Ohio Supreme Court. But she's thankful that one legal battle has been dismissed.


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