TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A girl whose divorced parents took on her on trips around the world to hide her from one another didn’t have a right to sit at the table during a visitation hearing, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled.
The case involves a custody dispute between the girl’s Russian mother and her American father.
The state’s high court ruled this past week that a juvenile court in Ottawa County was within its boundaries when it denied the girl, now 18, a seat alongside her attorney during the hearings.
The parents of Amelia Garmyn, identified only as A.G. in court documents, divorced in 2001 when she was 5.
Both her parents took her out of the country at various times to avoid court orders. Her Russian mother took her to Moscow and her American father took her to several states along with Costa Rica.
After the divorce was finalized, her mother took the girl back to Moscow where she said her daughter was abducted from her grandmother’s home and taken from Russia to be reunited with her father.
Patrick Garmyn denied accusations that he instructed three men to take the girl.
An agreement reached in a Henry County court in 2002 gave Lolita Garmyn custody of her daughter as long as she remained in the United States and allowed Patrick Garmyn supervised visitation rights.
Her father in 2009 asked a court to approve unsupervised visitation at his North Carolina home. But the girl asked the court to end visitation and wanted to be at the table during those discussions.
The court denied the girl’s requests and granted unsupervised visitation to the father.
“Members of this court can debate whether the trial court’s ultimate decision to exclude A.G., then 13 years old, was eminently reasonable or a close call,” said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. “But we cannot honestly debate whether the juvenile court abused its discretion in ordering A.G. out of the courtroom.”
The girl’s attorney, Howard Whitcomb, said the ruling won’t affect Amelia Garmyn because she is now 18 but could impact others in the future.
“It’s about choice,” Whitcomb told The Blade newspaper in Toledo. “Do you have the right of choice? If a child wants to participate.and chooses to do that, we believe the Constitution protects that choice.”