Saturday, November 05, 2005

Dads' Rights Legal Expert: Courts Failed Baby Evan by Granting Mom Custody

CHICAGO, Nov. 5 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Evan Johnson, the four- year-old boy who earlier this year was at the center of a high- profile and controversial adoption case, was removed from the custody of his biological mother Friday after his stepfather was arrested and charged with battering the child.

A judge ordered that Evan, who had been residing in Glenview, Ill., be placed temporarily in the custody of his biological father, Stephen White, in Maine.

In January, a Florida judge had granted custody of Evan to his biological mother, Amanda Hopkins, who gave him up for adoption days after his birth, because the adopting parents, Gene and Dawn Scott, failed to obtain the father's consent. The controversial decision generated national media attention and highlighted the issue of fathers' rights in adoption.

"This is something that never should have happened - the system has failed Evan," said Jeffery M. Leving, a nationally- recognized domestic relations attorney and fathers' rights advocate in Illinois. "He has been bounced around from the would- be adoptive parents, to his mother, now to his father. At least now he is where he should have been from day one - in the care of his father, the birth parent who wanted him all along."

Leving believes that the Florida judge ruled correctly to block the Scott's adoption because they failed to seek the father's consent, but that they erred in granting the mother, who sought custody only after it appeared likely that White would be granted parental rights.

White had sought custody of Evan since the child was only a few months old, but the Florida courts debated the case for more than three years while Evan was in the custody of the Scotts. This set up a traumatic transition of custody, reminiscent of the Baby Richard case, when Evan was removed from the couple he had come to know as his parents.

"This whole situation could have been avoided had the father's parental rights been recognized from the start," said Leving. "Instead you have put this child through a very painful and very public tug-of-war that resulted in him being placed in abusive situation. The courts must do better than this to protect children like Evan."

Leving is available for interview or comment regarding the case and the topic of fathers' rights in adoption and custody disputes. Call Joe Englert 312-296-3668.

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