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Severely disabled mother wins visitation rights

By the CNN Wire Staff
Abbie Dorn lives with her parents in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Abbie Dorn lives with her parents in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  • Brain-damaged woman can see her triplets five days each summer, judge rules
  • Judge also rules for a monthly Skype call
  • Abbie Dorn's parents, former husband disagree over her condition

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A California judge ruled Friday that a woman who suffered severe brain damage during the birth of her triplets must be granted visitation rights to see them.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick C. Shaller rejected the contention of Abbie Dorn's former husband that it is not in his children's best interest to see their "unfit" mother now.

Shaller said in his temporary order that Dorn, who lives with her parents in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, must be able to see the triplets, who turn 5 in June, over five consecutive days each summer. The order also provides for a monthly online visit via Skype.

"This is a precedent-setting case," said attorney Lisa Helfend Meyer, who represented Dorn's parents. "This is only a win-win for everybody."

The ruling is technically considered temporary, pending a full trial in the case.

Abbie Dorn suffered severe brain damage during childbirth in 2006.

Her parents and former husband, Daniel Dorn, become locked in a legal battle over whether Abbie is capable of interacting with her children, and whether they should visit her.

Daniel Dorn stated in court documents he wants the children to see their mother when they are older, perhaps 6 or 7 -- if he receives medical evidence that she will be able to communicate with them.

But Shaller ruled Friday that Abbie Dorn poses no threat to the children and smiles at times.

After a visit the children made to South Carolina, Daniel Dorn gave them a photo of their mother.

"They held onto the photograph for a prolonged time," the judge wrote. "It appears that even though the children were with their mother only a short period of time, they bonded with her."

Disabled woman's child visitation fight

Abbie Dorn had contact with triplets Esti, Reuvi and Yossi in December 2010. They visited her a total of four times that week. Before that week, she was last with them in October 2007.

Paul and Susan Cohen, a physician and former nurse, are conservators of Abbie Dorn's estate and care for their daughter full time at their home in South Carolina.

Susan Cohen told CNN last year that her daughter has made considerable progress after intensive rehabilitation and now communicates by blinking her eyes.

"One slow blink means 'yes.' No response means 'no,'" said Cohen, adding that her daughter smiled Friday when hearing the judge's decision.

Daniel Dorn, who lives in Los Angeles with the children, maintains that his former wife remains in a vegetative state. She is more than physically disabled, he contended in court papers, she is "neurologically incapacitated" and legally incompetent to make decisions involving her children.

Visiting brain-damaged mom: A collision of instincts

Shaller ruled that Daniel Dorn be granted sole custody of the triplets and must be present during the visits. The former husband also must place photographs of Abbie in his home so that the children can see them, the judge ruled.

"The court finds that even though Abbie cannot interact with the children, the children can interact with Abbie -- and that the interaction is beneficial for the children," Shaller ruled. "They can touch her, see her, bond with her, and can carry these memories with them."

With his wife's parents overseeing her medical care, Daniel Dorn found himself a young father raising triplets. He believed Abbie's prospects of recovery were faint. One year to the day after the triplets were born, he notified the Cohens that he was ready to move on.

"I still love Abbie very much, but I am trying to move on and have been and will continue to parent our children, who are happy and are thriving," Dorn told CNN in an e-mail last year.

At Dorn's request, the Cohens initiated divorce proceedings on Abbie's behalf. The divorce was finalized in the fall of 2008.

CNN's Stan Wilson contributed to this report.