DAA News Network

USA: Disabled mother wins conditional right to see her children

Posted 07/4-11 at 13.40

In an interim court ruling, Abbie Dorn, a disabled woman who can only communicate by blinking, has been granted visiting rights with her 4-year old triplets.

Two years after they were born, their parents divorced. Except for a four-day visit in December, Abbie had not seen her children since 2007. She had not held them since the day they were born.

Her ex-husband claimed that Abbie is in a vegetative state and that the children would get no benefit from a relationship with her. Early on in the legal battle, he even argued that it would be detrimental for the children to see their mother. He told them nothing about her until they were nearly 4, and he removed all pictures of her from the house.

The judge said that, "...even though [Abbie] cannot interact with the children, the children can interact with [Abbie] - and that the interaction is beneficial for the children." He ordered that photos of their mother be made available to them.

However, the judge also ruled that Abbie's ex-husband has a right to control the visits, decide which extended family members the children see and dictate what information they receive. He ordered Susan Cohen, Abbie's mother, to refrain from telling the children that their mother can communicate or that someday she could recover.

Abbie's lawyer, called the decision a victory for her client, and that "...the court held that a disabled parent has the same right as any other parent to have visitation."

Editorial Comment: While the court's decision must be wonderful for Abbie Dorn, it is much less than a full or satisfactory victory in that her rights to see her children have been limited expressly because of her impairment. If she was not disabled it is difficult to believe her ex-husband would be allowed to control visits and information to such an extent.

Although it is difficult to comment about such a complex legal case on the basis of newspaper reports, it would appear that Abbie Dorn continues to be discriminated against because she is a disabled person. In this critical sense, the court's judgement is definitely not a helpful precedent for other disabled people.




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