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

A Calif. judge ruled that a paralyzed mother is entitled to parental visits.

ByABC News
March 25, 2011, 4:51 PM

March 25, 2011— -- 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.