Thursday, January 06, 2000

Judge won't yank Justin away

Boy's visitation watched

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Justin at age 2
        COVINGTON — The judge overseeing the two-state custody battle over Justin promised repeatedly in court Wednesday that she has no plans to suddenly yank the boy from his Ohio home.

        The couple who want to adopt the boy were worried that bringing Justin across the state line for visits with his birth parents in Covington could mean he wouldn't be returned to them.

        Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe said she was somewhat insulted by the allegation. “I'll be as furious as you all have seen me furious” if someone absconds with the boy, she said.

        Justin turns 3 next month. He has lived with Richard and Cheryl Asente, and his older brother Joey, in Girard, Ohio, for almost two years.

        His biological parents, Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Covington, gave him to the Asentes but later said they did not realize their actions would be final.

        Judge Summe ruled that Justin should be returned to his birth parents because they did not make an informed custody decision. The Asentes are appealing. While that appeal is pending, both sides have been ordered to participate in mediation to work out their differences and visitation to reacquaint Justin with his birth parents.

        The judge was concerned that because Justin had been sick, a visit had been missed, one which psychologist Ed Connor had planned to observe.

        Judge Summe wants him to provide her with a report on how Justin handles being around his birth parents. The visit was rescheduled for this weekend.

        During the last hearing, Judge Summe warned that neither side seemed to be trying hard enough to make visitation work.

        “He's got four people in his life now, no matter what you do about it,” she said. “It's going to be a long road.”

        Some experts say it is never in a child's best interest to have two sets of adults warring over his welfare. They also say that Justin could be at a very sensitive age.

        “The turmoil is not good for the child,” said Richard Pearlman, a psychiatric social worker for Chicago-based Family Resource Center, a nonprofit welfare agency that specializes in adoptions. “What makes it a traumatic for a child is the way the parent responds. The more anxious a parent is, the more harmful it is to a child.”

        Justin would benefit most, he said, if both sides responded calmly to the court rulings.

        Scott Bassett, a Troy, Mich., lawyer who represented Baby Jessica's interests in Michigan Supreme Court, said a child rarely benefits when parents battling over his custody don't comply with court orders.


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