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Toddler in custody dispute can stay with Orange County woman -- for now

November 16, 2010 |  4:55 pm

For now, Rancho Santa Margarita resident Stacey Doss does not have to return 2-year-old Vanessa to Ohio, where her birth father lives.

Doss began adoption proceedings months before Vanessa was born. But when Vanessa was less than a month old, her biological father, Benjamin Mills Jr., of Dayton, filed for custody, halting the adoption proceedings. Vanessa's birth mother, Andrea Conley, said that her pregnancy was the result of a one-night stand and that Mills was not the father. Genetic tests proved that he was.

In Ohio, a custody trial was scheduled after Doss failed to reach an agreement with the father in mediation.

More paperwork will be filed in the case with the California 4th District Court of Appeals, with the last brief to be due Dec. 24. From there, the court has 90 days to decide whether to stay a motion that allows Vanessa to reside in California with Doss until a full panel of the appellate court can make a ruling on which state has jurisdiction.

During the arguments Tuesday, judges questioned the ability of Ohio authorities to remove Vanessa from Doss' care.

"It's not about me, it's not about the birth father, it's about Vanessa," Doss said after the hearing while blinking back tears.

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-- Nicole Santa Cruz in Santa Ana

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