Georgia Woman Denied Custody of Son Switched With Another After Birth With AM-Scotus RdpLAURIE ASSEO , Associated Press
Nov. 30, 1992 3:30 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Georgia woman lost a Supreme Court bid Monday for custody of her biological son, adopted by another couple after a hospital switched him and another baby nine years ago.
Jodie Denise Paul of Griffin, Ga., did not find out that her son had been sent home with another couple until he was five.
The Supreme Court let stand a ruling that awarded custody to the Kentucky couple who raised Mrs. Paul's son since birth.
Mrs. Paul, whose name then was Jodie Denise Pope, gave birth to a son Oct. 7, 1983, the same day another boy was born to a woman who planned to give her baby up for adoption.
The hospital accidentally swapped the babies before sending their mothers home.
The switch was discovered five years later, when Mrs. Paul and her then- husband, Walter Pope, were getting a divorce. Pope claimed he did not father their son, Cameron.
Blood tests showed that neither was Cameron's biological parent. Mrs. Paul learned that Eugene and Edith Moore of Fort Knox, Ky., had adopted her natural son and named him Melvin Eugene Moore.
Mrs. Paul adopted Cameron and sought custody of Melvin. But a Georgia judge awarded custody of Melvin to the Moores while allowing Mrs. Paul visitation rights.
The judge acknowledged there were no grounds to terminate Mrs. Paul's parental rights. But he said the Moores had developed rights too.
''To the boy and to the Moores there exists a bonding and familial relationship that no court ruling can undo,'' the judge said. His ruling was upheld by state appellate courts.
Mrs. Paul told the Supreme Court her constitutional rights as Melvin's biological mother overrode any rights of the Moores.
''Parental rights for third parties cannot exist without the prior surrender or termination of the natural mother's parental rights,'' her appeal said.
The Moores contended the case was similar to a divorce in which the ruling must be based on the child's best interests.
Melvin has been living with Mrs. Paul for the last year after she refused to return him from a Thanksgiving 1991 visit.
Her lawyer, Robert H. Benfield Jr., said Monday the boy will remain with Mrs. Paul until a lower court rules on her claim that Mrs. Moore physically and emotionally abused him. Mrs. Moore has denied that accusation.