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Challenges of Disabled Parents Seeking Custody or Visitation - Abbie Dorn Case

  • Synopsis: Published: 2011-06-16 - Case of paralyzed semiconscious mother of three who according to her parents is being denied a relationship with the children whose delivery nearly killed her. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Dominion Law Group, LLP.

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The lengthy legal battle of a disabled mother to see her three children highlights the disadvantages parents with disabilities have in custody disputes.

Earlier this year a California judge heard the tragic case of a paralyzed, semiconscious mother of three who, according to her parents, is being denied a relationship with the children whose delivery nearly killed her.

Three years ago, expectant mother Abbie Dorn headed to the hospital in labor with triplets. While two of the children were delivered without incident, before the third could be born, the doctor inadvertently slashed Ms. Dorn's uterus while performing a Cesarean section. The resulting blood loss caused heart failure, and malfunctioning medical equipment prevented her heart from being restarted quickly enough to minimize damage to her brain. Today Ms. Dorn is totally reliant upon her parents and other caregivers because the severe brain damage she suffered left her paraplegic, basically uncommunicative and in a persistent semiconscious state.

Following the advice of doctors that his wife would never recover, Ms. Dorn's husband, Dan Dorn, filed for divorce and is raising their three children alone in his home in Los Angeles. The children have not been in contact with their mother for any extended period during their short lives. Abbie Dorn's parents - acting on her behalf - filed a lawsuit seeking visitation with the children. They claim that Ms. Dorn - while admittedly nonverbal - can communicate with facial gestures and a series of eye blinks and that she has the mental capacity necessary to have a meaningful relationship with the children.

Dan Dorn disagrees, however, and fears that since the children are so young they could be permanently traumatized by the sight of their mother's weakened body and the various machines that keep her alive. He also fears that they wouldn't understand why she couldn't speak with them.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick C. Shaller recently provided a tentative ruling that would give her annual in-person visitation with the children and monthly video conferencing. He reasoned that the mere fact that Ms. Dorn is disabled - even though her disability is obviously severe - does not necessarily make her an unfit parent who does not deserve to spend time with her children.

This ruling might give hope to disabled parents around the country who are fighting to maintain a relationship with their children. Whether or not you are disabled, if you are in the middle of a child custody or visitation dispute, seek the advice of a skilled family law attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.

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Related Information:

  1. Proposed Family Court Law will Help Parents with Disabilities Retain Custody, Visitation Rights
  2. The Evolution of Fatherhood
  3. Responsibility for Children With Disabilities During and After Divorce

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