Three-Way Custody Battle for 'Baby Vanessa' Postponed Again

Filed under: Adoption, In The News

The heartbreaking custody battle for 2-year-old "Vanessa" between the adoptive mom who has cared for her since birth, the tot's biological father and the girl's grandmother has been put on hold until spring, the Dayton Daily News reports.

The toddler has been at the center of a bitter guardianship tug of war between adoptive mother Stacy Doss, of Orange County, Calif., the birth father, Benjamin Mills, of Dayton, Ohio and the biological father's mother, Rena Jordan of Middletown, Ohio, according to the newspaper.

But the hearing, previously scheduled to resume Dec. 6, has been postponed until March 7, 2011, to allow more time for motions and counter motions to be heard, the Daily News reports.

"It's in the child's best interests for everyone to have their day in court for each of these motions," Montgomery County Legal Director Greg Scott tells the newspaper.

Vanessa was born June 13, 2008, to a mother who claimed ignorance of the birth father, according to the Orange County Register. But three weeks later, Mills, 39, claiming to be Vanessa's father, filed for paternity. Doss had filed adoption papers by that time, but the paternity claim put the adoption on hold.

By November 2008, DNA tests confirmed that Mills was Vanessa's father. Doss and Mills have been in a legal battle ever since, the Register reports. Last July, Jordan, Mills' mother, who has had legal custody of two of his three children since 2008, stepped in to say she would raise Vanessa, the Daily News reports.

Doss tells the Daily News she's relieved she'll be able to enjoy the holidays with Vanessa without the stress of the hearing, but she's frustrated with yet another delay.

"Critics say adoptive parents bring this on themselves because they use the courts to drag the process out, while the child just gets older and older and it's harder for them if there is going to be surrender," she tells the newspaper. "These critics have no idea what the courts put you through. Adoptive parents have no say as to the time frame -- the courts have all the control."

Doss's fight to keep Vanessa has made national headlines and raises questions about the best interests of a child and the rights of a biological parent, according to the Register.

A divorced public relations consultant, Doss has drained her life savings and has sent her home into foreclosure twice paying for the fight to keep her child. She is relying on fundraisers to pay for ongoing legal fees, the Register reports.

According to a statement in the Dayton newspaper from Mills' attorney, Elizabeth Gorman with Legal Aid of Western Ohio Inc., Mills did not request the delay.

"The delay is unfortunate because it further prolongs Mr. Mills' and his family's separation from his daughter Vanessa," the statement reads.

Cristy Oakes, Jordan's attorney, tells the Daily News her client and the child's extended biological family also are disappointed.

"The sooner we can get some visitation between child and family the better," Oakes says. "She is being denied the right to see her grandmother and her two siblings. The family is saddened they won't ... see her over the holidays."

When the custody hearing resumes, Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Nick Kuntz is expected to rule on Mills' parental rights; if he upholds them, a custody trial would most likely ensue between Mills and Doss.

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