Should a disabled mom be banned from seeing her kids?

Time.com has a heartbreaking story about a mother who was left brain damaged after giving birth to triplets in 2006. Abbie Dorn, a 34-year-old paraplegic, has been blocked from seeing her kids because her ex-husband thinks the kids could be traumatized by seeing her.

Dorn cannot do much physically. She can blink yes or no to questions. She can hear sounds and see things. She can smile. Last week a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that Dorn’s kids can visit her for five consecutive days each year. Dorn lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Her husband divorced her after the brain damage.

From Time.com:

“The court finds that even though [Dorn] cannot interact with the children, the children can interact with [Dorn] — and that the interaction is beneficial for the children,” wrote Judge Frederick Shaller. “They can touch uch her, see her, bond with her, and can carry those memories with them.”…

“The judge also ordered monthly Skype visits for Dorn and the kids and required Dan Dorn, who didn’t even tell the children about their mother until recently, to essentially create a shrine in his home in her honor, setting aside a space for photographs and memorabilia that is “open and available to the children 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.” …

“Is there ever a case in which a mother shouldn’t be allowed to see her children? Perhaps in the case of severe mental illness that could erupt into violence, a no-visitation policy might be in order. But even in a situation of extreme disfigurement, Caplan says the mother-child bond is sacred. “It might be disturbing, but that tie is so strong that you have to do what you can to maintain it,” he says. “Even in people who are adopted, the drive to know their biological parent is enormous. We are in a culture that values that.”

Oh my gosh I just can’t even imagine there are so many awful things in this story. First off this poor woman was brain damaged during childbirth. What a terrible tragedy. I am sure she was anticipating holding her new babies and caring for them and then she was left paralyzed!

Secondly I can’t imagine not seeing or being with your kids. I am sure she wants to see them and hear them and just observe them. They can lay their little heads against her or touch her hand. They can smile at her and laugh and she can see and hear these things.

I think had the kids been seeing their mom all along (the story says the father didn’t even tell the kids they had a mother) they wouldn’t think much about her condition. That would just be the way mom is. I am sure five years later not even knowing you have a mom, it will be shocking to see her as a paraplegic.

So what do you think: Is there a case or condition (obviously child abuse) where parents should be kept from their kids? What about disabilities?

Do you think if the kids had been seeing their mother all along they would be less affected by her condition and just think that’s how mom is?

What do you think of the dad not telling the kids they even had a mom?

– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, ajc.com Momania

52 comments Add your comment

Mabel

March 30th, 2011
12:38 am

The press can’t get the story right, so building blogs on false information creates more inaccurate reporting.

Dan took the children to see their mother in December. He also offered to visit with the children again, without involving the court. He too lived throught this tragedy and the children know they have a mother.

How would you like the whole world trying to tell you how to raise your children based on false information they are being fed by the opponents and the press?

Julia

March 30th, 2011
12:58 am

their mother should be in their lives and the fact it smells he left her over this.. his day will come

shaggy

March 30th, 2011
7:03 am

Mabel,

i hear you. The media often rushes the story for personal glory or advertising dollars.
Now, if it does bear out that he wants to keep from “traumatizing” the kids, which is a load of bull—-, he should be caned, in front of his wife, just for being a twit. There are many twits among us, and caning would help.

madmommy

March 30th, 2011
7:14 am

I just can’t believe that the husband would divorce her after she is injured giving birth to HIS children. Guess he was asleep during the “in sickness and health” vow. My goodness what a turd. Those children should be allowed to see and know their mother, but I feel as if a huge part of the story is missing since it took them going to court to settle this issue. Sad all around if you ask me. Hopefully she has family around who can go over photos or tell stories about their mom so they can know more about her as a person.

cc

March 30th, 2011
8:23 am

The children should be allowed to see their mother. If they had been seeing her all along they would be used to her condition. Because they have been kept from her I hope they are not scared of her. The father is the one that has traumatized the children by keeping them away. That is such a heart breaking story.

MomOf2Girls

March 30th, 2011
8:46 am

@Mabel – I have seen your comments in several articles about this, so it seems to me that you are personally involved, I assume as a friend or relative of the father. You tell him for me that what he is doing is a chilul Hashem, and that if he was truly a Talmid Chachum, he would know that what he is attempting to do to Abbie’s parents is not only a shandra, but is halachically wrong. In addition, the woman who brought those three neshamas into the world is an eishes chayil, and he should be ashamed for treating her so callously.

Misty Fyed

March 30th, 2011
8:51 am

The story asks the wrong question. The real question is should the dad be allowed to retain custody of the kids. If his character allowed him to walk out on his wife like that; what is he going to do when a kid brings home a C? What if they get suspended? What happens when the kids become hard to love? He already has shown what his instinct is. Cut and run. The man is a worm.

JATL

March 30th, 2011
8:54 am

I’m sure we don’t know the entire story, but I’ve really wondered how on earth it could POSSIBLY be presented that didn’t leave me feeling like the ex-husband is a really large piece of $h*t! Not only for the mother’s sake and the grandparent’s sake -but the CHILDREN really need to grow up dealing with this as they grow; grieving it; accepting it; learning about it -and so on. Sooner or later they will be grown themselves and to not have been allowed to visit their mother on a regular basis (or at all) and deal with what happened to her on their terms over the years would be incredibly harmful to them. The only time I advocate children not being allowed to see a parent is when that person is an abuser or so mentally unbalanced that they have to be institutionalized and cannot be trusted not to say something detrimental to the child -and even then the child should be told about the parents as they grow up and not have it be hidden like some dark family secret.

JJ

March 30th, 2011
8:57 am

Rat Ba$tard – how selfish of him. His actions will have consequences. His kids will resent him for the rest of his life.

Rational Citizen

March 30th, 2011
9:02 am

This woman is just as brain-dead as Terry Shiavo was. Let this woman die with some dignity.

Becky

March 30th, 2011
9:14 am

I’m sure that we don’t have all the details, but..Yes, these kids should know about their Mother..If the Dad is really keeping them away for what he thinks is there best interest, it will back fire on him one day..Based on the fact that he divorced her and stayed in another state, it doesn’t seem like he did it for financial (sp) reasons..

The paper says that she suffered brain damage during childbirth, can you imagine how it’s going to make that child feel when he/she finds out that this happened during their birth and they were never allowed to see the Mother? I would think that would be enough to cause a lot of anger toward the Dad later on..

As has already been mentioned, karma will come back and bite him in the butt over this..

Big Daddy

March 30th, 2011
9:19 am

Not only should she be able to see her children whenever she bloody feels like it, but her ex should have his Bojangles lopped off with a rusty pair of garden shears for leaving his wife after that. When he finally dies of old age or just plain stupidity, his grave should double as a latrine for unfortunate souls with bowel disorders.

DB

March 30th, 2011
9:21 am

@Mabel: Several other accounts state that the last time she saw the children was in October 2007. Which is correct? Not that it matters.

I wonder how much of this lawsuit was prompted by Abbie’s parents, who probably also miss the contact with their grandchildren. Again — not that it matters.

Mr. Dorn isn’t a terribly sympathetic character here — divorcing his wife who was incapacitated giving birth to his children is pretty cold. I don’t know what orthodox Jewish law is on this, but I believe that a man could divorce a woman for a “blemish” if it was hidden from him, but not for one that developed during the marriage. I guess there’s an argument there for lack of conjugal relations, but since they already had children, the religious aspect of sexual relationships for purposes of procreation had already been met. Again — it doesn’t matter, they are divorced.

What is unconscionable is that he apparently withheld his children from their mother. He made a decision that his ex-wife had no value — indeed, apparently no value to the point of not even telling the children they had a living mother. And while it’s true that the children will not have the same kind of relationship with their mother than other children may have with their mothers — it’s still THEIR relationship, and I don’t think he should have interfered with that. She is not violent or a danger to the children — and in fact, with a mother in her condition, the children may grow up to be more sensitive and caring to the challenges faced by the disabled.

MomOf2Girls

March 30th, 2011
9:33 am

@DB – Orthodox couples can divorce for any reason, although the divorce rate in our communities is much lower than in the secular world. I actually wonder if he obtained a Jewish divorce from his wife, or just a civil divorce. A Jewish divorce entails appearing before a beit din, comprising 3 rabbis, and physically passing a get, or divorce decree, to your wife. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for the halachic (Jewish law) discussions surrounded his request for a get and how they determined that it would be a valid divorce if she could not acknowledge and accept the get.

I absolutely agree that his actions are beyond the pale. I understand that perhaps the burden of caring for a profoundly disabled wife and 3 infants / toddlers was just too much for him to handle. What I cannot understand is his extreme efforts to excise their mother from their lives so thoroughly. As I communicated to Mabel above, this is not the Torah way, and is a complete anathema to the way an Orthodox Jew should be.

mom2alex&max

March 30th, 2011
9:37 am

Mabel: maybe it would help if you told us the “real” story instead of whining about poor journalism.

I don’t judge the man for divorcing her. Yeah, it makes him look like a jerk, but hey walk a mile, you know? Three babies and a disabled spouse is a lot to handle for anyone. But I’m guessing it’s not just a divorce; this dude seems to want to eradicate any sign of this woman’s existence.

Emilio

March 30th, 2011
9:39 am

The father did the right thing. There is no benefit for the children to see their “mother” this way. Unfortunately, this is an instance where she was just a carrier. She can never be a true mother. Pull her plug.

JOD

March 30th, 2011
9:43 am

@MomOf2Girls – Beautifully said! I’m not Jewish, so I admit I looked up the terms, and you gave this man a righteous ear-boxing!

@JATL – I’m with you in that while I don’t know the full story, and I can’t imagine being in his shoes when this tragedy occurred, it’s sickening to me that he would cut her (and her parents/family) from his life and his children’s life in such a seemingly cold way.

JJ

March 30th, 2011
9:45 am

OMG you guys, I am so upset. There was a horrible traffic accident this morning that I came up on. Turns out it was a fatality and it was a little 9th grade boy who was killed. His mom was driving him to school, and they got T-boned and he was killed……I CANNOT imagine the horror……

Techmom

March 30th, 2011
9:59 am

The children deserver to meet their mother and be given a chance to bond or not on their own. The grandparents have even said they think the children should receive some counseling before meeting their mother so they can understand and not be traumatized.The value for the children is that they won’t lead their lives wondering why they never had a mother. They will be given a chance to see that it was not their mother’s choice to leave or abandon them. It was a horrible set of circumstances that left her unable to care for them or herself. Perhaps if the mother can show any kind of reaction, it will help the children to understand that she values them and loves them even if their birth lead to her condition. How guilty do you think these children will feel later in life if they learn they caused their mother’s state by simply being brought into this world?

In the article on CNN it states that the father is now trying to get child support from the mother’s medical trust… he can’t have it both ways; he either gets support and allows the children to see and meet their mother, or he walks away from her, including the money.

Kat

March 30th, 2011
10:01 am

I had read this story elsewhere, and had heard that after he divorced her, she moved back to her parents’ house, which is very far away (if not across the country). Yes, he had taken the children for a visit, Mabel, note I said “a” visit. She is not like Teri Schiavo (sp?) in Florida – she has many more capabilities and feelings than that poor woman. In the guy’s defense, I couldn’t imagine three newborns AND a disabled spouse, but not telling them they had a mom is definitely wrong.

They should live with their dad and have MORE visitation and Skype visits with their mom and her parents.

DB

March 30th, 2011
10:05 am

@MomOf2Girls: “this is not the Torah way, and is a complete anathema to the way an Orthodox Jew should be.”

Or a Christian, either, for that matter :-) I’d say it was probably pretty cold for atheists, too :-) I, too, would have loved to be a fly on the wall — doesn’t a wife have to consent to a divorce under Jewish law?

Oh, what tangled webs we weave . . . this man has created an unbelievable mess for himself.

Becky

March 30th, 2011
10:07 am

I don’t recall seeing how old all of the children are, does anyone know?

Techmom

March 30th, 2011
10:09 am

@JJ I just saw the headline. How horribly sad. I cannot imagine.

JJ

March 30th, 2011
10:17 am

@Techmom – it upsets me as it may be a neighbor of mine….All the high school kids in our neighborhood go to Lanier…..

Kimmer

March 30th, 2011
10:26 am

Mabel, I hear what you are saying, the press can certainly get things wrong but something is far wrong here. Unless they got that wrong too the man divorced his wife because she became severely disabled bearing HIS children. I guess he didn’t mean it when he vowed to stay with her in sickness and in health. Sounds like quite a guy to me.

MomOf2Girls

March 30th, 2011
10:44 am

@DB – I don’t know all of the intricacies surrounding Jewish divorce, so I can’t answer your question. I know if sounds like a simple one, but it’s actually not.

@Becky – the children are 4 years old. I’m afraid that the older they are when they are able to see their mother, the more traumatic I’m afraid their visits will be to begin with, and the longer it will take for them to accept their mother’s disabilities. I’m afraid also that the father will use this as “proof” that they shouldn’t continue to be “forced” to see their mother in that condition.

JDK

March 30th, 2011
10:46 am

How many times have you heard someone say, for example “If I get to the point where I can’t live my life … “. I know I have doomed and gloom sentiments about the “what ifs” in life. Many times couples discuss things that know one else knows. We all now that many men move on quicker than most woman. My mother went to group grief counseling and socials after my father passed, and she will tell you she didn’t last because it was like a pick-up place for recent male widows.

How do we know the kids didn’t react well to that one visit? The kids are just about 5, now. Young kids often don’t bond with people that never see, even if it is their mom. I know I was wigged out at watching my grandmother with Parkinson’s, those images still come back to me know of being forced to see her.

Now just based on what I have read here, the man comes off as a jerk. We are getting a very limited view.

JJ, sorry at what you witnessed this morning. I saw a wreck one time on the Interstate just after it happened. Yes … before authorities and medics could arrive to cover up the trauma from public view. Thank goodness my kids were small and napping in their car seats. I am just getting chill bumps rethinking those images now! :(

Marlee

March 30th, 2011
11:01 am

What is the grandparents story in all this? Sometimes the parents of the severely disabled adult child can be the thorn in the matter. It’s like they all of a sudden revert back to wanting that child to be dependent on them and taking control of the situation. Selfish and loving all mixed up to where they become parents to a dependent child again.

I remember I was often torn with how I felt about Terri Shiavo’s (sp) parents as seen in the media. Never pretended to imagine that I would make better choices than them if I was in their shoes. It has to unimaginable losing a child at any age. However I did feel that they played to the publicity of it all and tried to portray their daughter as more responsive than she was – which I thought backfired.

Just my thoughts. There are a lot of people in this story and we have no idea how such a life changing event can do to supposedly normal people.

Denise

March 30th, 2011
11:08 am

The “pull her plug” comments bother me as much as this guy’s actions. That is not the subject and I think it is way too personal…I know we always talk about things that are personal but it makes me uncomfortable talking about whether someone should live or die. Also, this man left his wife so he didn’t even care enough about his WIFE and MOTHER OF HIS CHILDREN to “pull her plug” if that in fact was the “right”, “dignified” thing to do (/cringing as I type/).

I don’t think it is right for this man to LIE to his kids and say they do not have a mother. WTH was he thinking? Did he think that they would never question him? NEVER? Was he going to say she died when they finally asked? Or was he going to feel bad and finally say “oh, well, you do but she’s disabled and I thought you’d be traumatized so I didn’t want you to see her.”? Seriously, he’s an @$$. I would like to say he had his kids’ best interests at heart but I can’t.

Becky

March 30th, 2011
11:17 am

2MomOf2Girls..Thanks..I agree about the older they are the more troublesome it will be for them..

@JDK..I know that me and the husband have talked about this plenty of times..I dont’t want to have my family go thru this..As my husband says, they will put an animal to sleep when there is nothing else that can be done to saveit, but they will make a human lay there and suffer..What’s up with that?

Ann

March 30th, 2011
11:35 am

The kids will eventually find their way to their mother, regardless of the Dad’s blocking access. The older they are when that happens and they bond with the mother, the more anger and resentment they will have towards the Dad. The Dad is, effectively, ruining his future relationship with his kids.

jarvis

March 30th, 2011
11:43 am

Parents (mother-in-law in the Dorn case) in these situations are so desperate and sometimes irrational.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8225637/ns/us_news/

Terry Shiavo’s parents still refused to believe that their daughter couldn’t have been helped by therapy even after the autopsy showed that her brain was HALF the size of a normal grown woman’s.

I feel for everyone in this situation. It will be interesting to see ultimately what Mrs. Dorn’s actual level of conciousness is determined to be. Got the feeling this one will be in appeals for years to come.

JDK

March 30th, 2011
11:45 am

@ Becky Always a no win situation when humans are involved. There are always going to a human advocates (right to live AND die) that interject their beliefs into a situation and once the media gets involved all bets are off.

@Marlee I have a mom that wasn’t very loving to me as a child. She wasn’t an abusive mother, but she was very matter of fact in the way she raised me an a younger brother. Kind of like having a caregiver that tended to your every needs but griped about it. That same mom today would be the mother I never had (and don’t need) if this same situation arose. My mom would cause more grief for my DH and my kids and take over my life in an attempt to right past wrongs or whatever. There are parents and grandparents like that out there.

I know my friends with moms like mine or worse are the strongest most sane gals I know. I also have friends with moms that never seemed to cut the cord that are enablers and have messed up marriages and relationships. There are normal ones in between too!

Don’t know how I feel about this with the limited info. Yes, again, this guy is a @#$! He could have ‘manned up’ and done the right things, but he didn’t.

JDK

March 30th, 2011
11:53 am

@ Ann Psychologically that is the most probable way it can turn out, the father looses in the end and the kids are alone with no parents to speak of! However, I would not place any bets that is the way it will turn out, Human relationships and their dynamics are very strange to look at these days. What was once a predictable outcome is now anybody’s guess. Never say never!

IDGH

March 30th, 2011
12:49 pm

I heard that grandma never came to see her grandchildren, the ones she claims to love soo much.

Abbie’s extended family chose to distance themselves from Abbie’s beautiful children.

Dad invited them often and the first plane trip the triplets took was to see their mother.

HB

March 30th, 2011
1:26 pm

I think these are most likely all good people doing what they believe is best (but disagreeing on what that is) in a terrible situation. Maybe grandma didn’t fly across the country to see her grandchildren because she didn’t feel comfortable leaving her disabled daughter for whom she is the primary caregiver. I disagree with the father’s decision not to tell his children about their mother’s condition early on and am glad the judge has ordered visitation, but I also think his intentions probably were genuinely to protect his children and that it wasn’t a selfish or spiteful decision, even though it was wrong.

As for “leaving” his wife, from the articles I’ve read it sounds like he and his in-laws came to a mutual decision that he would focus on caring for their three babies and his in-laws (a physican and a nurse) would take over care of their daughter in their home and control her medical trust. After a year of that separation, he asked for a divorce from his wife whom he considers to be in a vegetative state (sounds like there are conflicting assessments of her condition). If he felt she was in the best possible care and her parents wanted to continue to manage and have full legal power over matters pertaining to her care, going forward with a divorce doesn’t seem like an evil decision to me.

The whole situation is just very, very sad.

Techmom

March 30th, 2011
1:28 pm

@IDGH If the parents were the caregivers and lived across the country, how were they supposed to be up and leave to go visit the grandchildren? Not saying it’s easy to travel with 3 toddlers (I sure wouldn’t do it) but I can see why the grandparents couldn’t either. If her parents lived on the east coast before she become disabled, did you expect them to move to CA to take care of their daughter? I wonder if the father tried to have a caregiver put in place in their home in CA so the mom could stay there and try to be a part of her children’s lives or did he automatically give up and allow her to be taken to her parents’ home across the country? Lots of questions abound.

Tina

March 30th, 2011
2:03 pm

I don’t think any of us should throw our 2 cents worth of advice or judgement out there. None of us have walked in their shoes so it’s not right to judge IMO.

JJ

March 30th, 2011
2:09 pm

I have to agree with Tina…..we don’t know the entire story. Therefore, we should not make judgements.

Becky

March 30th, 2011
2:26 pm

Tina, if you notice a lot of people said that they don’t know the entire story..I don’t think a lot on here are judging, just giving opinions..As for Dad inviting the grandparents to fly out to see the grandkids, who was paying for the tickets? Has anyone thought about that being a factor with them living in SC and the grandkids living in CA..Flying from point A to point B can become pretty expensive after a while..

MomsRule

March 30th, 2011
2:45 pm

There are far to many unknowns for me to have an opinion on this one.

Tina

March 30th, 2011
3:15 pm

Becky, that’s how stories get so twisted though. This need to be left up to the family and people that do know all the facts.

IDGH

March 30th, 2011
3:40 pm

mom2alex&max,

If you were more informed you would learn that dad took the children to see their mother when she lived in California and this past December–and offered to visit again, without the judge telling him to.

Dad was not against visitation. He was against co-parenting with Abbie’s parents.

As Susan Cohen admits in her television spot–for Myrtle Beach–the judge did not award her everything she wanted.

The judge heard the evidence, not the world of misinformed public opinion.

Kat

March 30th, 2011
3:55 pm

There is not a topic out there in which any one of us knows all the facts, emotions and intricacies. We all come at this from our own individual point of view. That’s why it’s a blog for discussion! You may not like the topic (I don’t know every little detail – wah, wah, wah, so how can I possibly form any sort of opinion), so don’t comment. Or, just comment and go away. Please, go away!

You know who will know all the facts? The poor judge who has to make a decision in this case. The dad doesn’t even know how the mom feels and vice-versa.

AngryRedMarsWoman

March 30th, 2011
4:09 pm

This presents an interesting issue – what do you do when your partner/mate can no longer participate in the relationship? “For better or worse…in sickness and in health.” I can see limits to that and it appears that many of you here disagree with that because there is a strong reaction to the news that he divorced her. At what point is it asking too much of someone? I could not abide by someone leaving a mate who had cancer or similar illness or who was injured/paralyzed in an accident, but what about someone who can no longer function at all as a mate? And what if that happens early in the marriage? Should a young person (20s, early 30s) be judged harshly for wanting to find a new mate when his/her spouse has been reduced to a near-vegetative state? I am not talking about someone who just needs to be taken care of (and I do not mean to trivialize it by using “just”), but rather someone who is bed-ridden in a hospital and will never come home in any capacity. Do we expect a young man to raise three children and otherwise declare his life over and visit his blinking wife in the hospital every day? I know it makes for a wonderful love story, but it is not reality, is it? What happened is tragic, a true misfortune for this woman and her family (including her then-husband), but when does it end? Why shouldn’t he be free to find someone for himself and the children? I agree that they should know about their mother, but exactly how much time should they spend watching the body of their mother breathe and blink? I know it sounds harsh, but let’s be realistic.

tracey

March 30th, 2011
4:16 pm

from the get-go it sounds like he is a jerk for leaving her. i mean, she did get that way giving birth to his children. but on the other hand, how exactly was he going to take care of triplets and a disabled spouse? still, he should let her at least see the kids if she is able to get something out of it that will help her.

mom2alex&max

March 30th, 2011
4:26 pm

IDGH : hey I wasn’t going to spend hours researching this particular news story just so I could have all the facts. I have an opinion. I posted it. You don’t like it, feel free to ignore it. And I don’t blame the man for divorcing her NOR do I blame him for not wanting to co-parent with former in-laws. Who would want that? NOT ME.

What annoyed me was “Mabel” coming in here, blasting the journalists and not posting the facts herself. She did this in several forums that posted this story. I’m guessing she’s the dude’s girlfriend.

JDK

March 30th, 2011
4:53 pm

I took a bit of time to google Abbie Dorn this afternoon. Based on what I found, this is how I percieved it. Again, my opinions based on what little I have read …

This sounds like the Terri Shiavo case, where the parents of Abbie are now all of a sudden at odds with the ex son in law. The sad part is there are 3 triplets involved.

I did not find alot of legals details from the beginning years, only what is happening now. It sounds like Abbie’s parents agreed to care for her and the husband agreed to raise the triplets. There has been more than 1 interaction between mom and children. But again, it sounds as if all parties were satisfied until recently.

The parents sound very much like the Shiavo case, very much wanting to believe their daughter will have a miraculous recovery with involvement from the kids. It seem to be a “move” by the parents to have the story in the press, the dad is being villified beyond belief. The comments here are very respecful.

I liked your input on this AngryRed. And like I said before, we don’t know what kind of “What if …” conversations husband and wife had. But with no Will or legal documents to specifiy what she would have wanted (atleast I did not read of any), the door is wide open for speculation.

bumping

March 30th, 2011
6:10 pm

Enter your comments here

JDK

March 30th, 2011
6:42 pm

This just shows how it is so important to have a Living Will, Final Will and everything in between!