California Judge Says Paralyzed Mother Has Right to Visits With Her Children

Abbie Dorn
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A California judge has ruled that paralyzed mother Abbie Dorn is entitled to parental visitation rights.

Judge Fredrick Shaller ordered five-day visits once a year, where the children will visit Dorn at her parents' home in South Carolina for three hours each day. Only Dorn, her ex-husband Dan Dorn and their three young children are to take part in the visit.

"We're very pleased, the judge definitely understood our decision and ruled what Mr. Dorn said was best for the children," Vicki Greene, Dan Dorn's attorney, told ABC News.

Greene said these yearly visits were offered to Paul and Susan Cohen, Abbie Dorn's parents, before the case went to trial. The Cohens, Greene said, wanted visits three times a year, absent Dan Dorn.

Abbie Dorn, 34, suffered severe brain damage after giving birth to triplets in 2006. She cannot move on her own and remains in bed unless one of her caretakers moves her to a chair.

Alongside the five-day visits, Abbie Dorn will also see her children by Skype, an Internet phone service, for 30 minutes on the first Sunday of each month in an attempt to maintain a parental relationship with them. The kids can watch their mother receive music therapy, according to the ruling, or their grandfather can read them a story with Abbie in the room.

"We think that this is just the beginning, that their time with their mother will increase as they get older," Lisa Helfend Meyer, Abbie Dorn's attorney, told ABC News.

In the ruling, the judge noted that when the children were granted a visit with their mother last December, they immediately established a bond with her. As evidence, Shaller noted that the children would physically hold on to photographs of their mother that they were given after the visit for long periods of time.

Today's ruling requires Dan Dorn to display photographs of Abbie Dorn on a table or shelf in the children's bedrooms.

Shaller's ruling acknowledged the strained relationship between Dan Dorn and his former mother-in-law, Susan Cohen.

The court viewed a video recorded by Paul Cohen during that December visit. In one conversation with the children, the judge's ruling noted, Susan Cohen made a statement to the effect that Abbie Dorn would get better some day.

At another point, Susan Cohen took Esti, Abbie and Dan Dorn's daughter, upstairs and closed herself and the child in a bathroom in an apparent attempt to speak to Esti outside of Dan's hearing. She then tried to keep Dan Dorn out of the bathroom.

Judge Bans Mother-in-Law From Visit

According to the judge's ruling, Susan Cohen and any extended family will not be allowed in the room during the children's visits unless Dan Dorn allows it. Cohen also will not be allowed to take part in the Skype conversations without Dan Dorn's permission.

"The judge recognized that the grandmother was imposing her belief system on the children, and that belief system contradicted the father and posed a risk to the children," said Greene.

"Susan is restrained from making any comments to the children regarding what Abbie thinks, her prognosis, how she is communicating, or from making comments that Abbie may recover," Shaller wrote.

Dan Dorn wanted to delay the visits until the children were six or seven years old. The triplets turn five in June. Shaller rejected the need for a delay, saying Abbie Dorn already had outlived her life expectancy.

"The children need to have a relationship with their mother established before she dies," Shaller wrote. "The court finds that even though Abbie cannot interact with the children, the children can interact with Abbie -- and that the interaction is beneficial for the children.

"They can touch her, see her, bond with her, and can carry these memories with them."

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