Child custody battles are never pretty, but the ongoing tug of war between Ohio and California currently grabbing national headlines is particularly troubling. On the one side in Ohio is the biological father, Benjamin Mills Jr., who was never consulted when the biological mother, Andrea Conley, put their daughter up for adoption; on the other side in California is the would-be adoptive mother, Stacey Doss, who has taken care of the now 2-year-old girl since birth.
At the time that “baby Vanessa” was put up for adoption by her birth mother, the mother said she didn’t know who the father was, and that he wasn’t in the picture anymore. One snag: She lied. The father now wants custody. He has two older daughters with Conley, neither of whom he has custody of, and both of whom are being raised by his mother, Rena Jordan. Ms. Jordan also is seeking custody of Vanessa.
In this very complicated tug of war, the courts are in the middle of a minefield. The biological mother wants — and has always wanted — the baby to be adopted by Doss. Doss is the only parent the child has ever known. Yet, as the biological father, Mills’ rights should trump those of a potential adoptive parent, right? Not so fast.
Mills is apparently not a stellar example of fatherhood. In addition to Vanessa’s two sisters whom, again, are being raised by his mother, he has two other children who are being raised by his ex-wife. He currently has custody of none of his children. In addition, he spent eight months in prison after being convicted for the third time on felony domestic violence charges, he has an open case against him for child endangerment and his driver’s license has been suspended a number of times because he failed to pay child support.
Clearly, this is not an easy case.
The courts have a tendency to lean heavily in favor of parental rights. In this case, however, there seems to be a compelling argument to consider the rights and the best interests of the child, which seem to favor adoption.
The parties are all talking now, trying to work something out. If they can’t, a custody hearing is set for the week of December 6th, and the court has made it clear that it wants this resolved soon.