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Ohio minor wants legal right to participate in custody hearings

It's natural for Columbus spouses to feel strong emotions when they divorce. While spouses bear the emotional brunt of the end of a marriage, it's easy for them to forget that others also have deep feelings - children.

A 17-year-old girl wants the Ohio Supreme Court to affirm her and others' constitutional rights to take part in custody decisions. The teen felt left out when an Ottawa County Juvenile court denied the girl admission to her father's visitation hearing, a decision backed by a federal appeals court. Unsupervised visitations were granted.

The rulings were suspended, after the teen petitioned the state Supreme Court over her rights to be included in the visitation decision. The verdict may not come down until the girl becomes an adult. In the meantime, the father surrendered his parental rights.

The case is no longer just about one child.

The teen's Russian-American parents disputed custody, even before the couple's 2001 divorce. The mother fled to Moscow with the child before the divorce was finalized, only to return and have the father take off with the girl.

The child was moved from state to state and flown to Costa Rica. The father and the girl were later found in Florida. The father was given a suspended sentence for custody interference in 1999. Mother and child returned to Moscow, where the then-6-year-old girl was abducted and turned over to her father in Paris.

The parents and their daughter returned to the U.S. The mother received custody in Ohio. The out-of-state dad had supervised visitation rights. His appeal for unsupervised rights brings the landmark case up to date.

Equal physical custody is an option, but many times, one parent is the primary custodian while the other has planned visitations with the children. Child custody conflict is minimized when divorced spouses adhere to a mutual parenting plan, but chaos can erupt when they don't.

Source:, "Teen girl seeks a seat in custody litigation" Jim Provance, Oct. 24, 2013

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