Rich and Cheryl Asente of Girard want the Kentucky Supreme Court to look at the "big picture" when it takes up the custody battle for their son, Justin, who will turn 5 on Feb. 28. In our opinion, that's the only way the high court justices can begin to understand what has gone on in this unfortunate four-year legal fight.
The facts are clear: Justin's biological parents, Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Kentucky, gave the child up for adoption in February 1998 when he was 11 months old. They offered Justin to the Asentes because the couple had adopted his biological brother, Joey, in May 1998. However, a month after they put Justin up for adoption, Moore and Dorning changed their minds and claimed that they didn't know what they were doing when they signed documents allowing transfer of the child.
And here's the crucial fact: Rich and Cheryl Asente are the only parents Justin has ever known.
While the legal battles have been raging in Ohio and Kentucky, the brothers have bonded -- with each other and with their parents, the Asentes. Indeed, Rich and Cheryl were granted custody of Justin by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which found that Moore and Dorning knew what they were doing when they agreed to the adoption.
But the couple appealed to the supreme court, which is scheduled to hear the case on Feb. 15 -- just 13 days before Justin's 5th birthday.
Awareness: We keep stressing the age factor because it is important for the supreme court to understand that this case involves a child who is now aware of the world around him. He knows that Joey is his brother and that the Asentes are his parents.
Yes, his biological parents have visitation rights, but that's because the legal battle continues.
Justin's home is in Girard with a loving mother and father and a loving brother. The home isn't in Kentucky with a woman who gave up her children and a man who was married to another woman when the boys were born. Indeed, Dorning has fathered five different children with three different women.
Once the Kentucky Supreme Court considers all the facts -- the big picture -- it will conclude, as the appeals court did, that Richard and Cheryl Asente should be permitted to finalize Justin's adoption.