Birth parents propose settlement in custody dispute

CINCINNATI (AP) - A northeast Ohio couple fighting for custody of a 6-year-old boy they adopted five years ago are considering a settlement offer that would end their dispute with the boy's birth parents.
Richard and Cheryl Asente received an offer in the mail at their home in Girard on Thursday but have not had a chance to study it with their attorney, Richard Asente said.
"We are taking it seriously," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday. "Anything that would resolve it favorably for both Joey and Justin we will seriously consider. But we need to look at what's best for both of them."
The Asentes adopted the boys from birth parents Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Covington, Ky. Moore and Dorning are fighting to regain custody of 6-year-old Justin, but not Joey, who is now 8.
Last month, the Kentucky Supreme Court sent Justin's custody case back to the trial court to decide between his birth parents and the adoptive Ohio couple.
Reversing an appeals court, the justices said there was evidence to support an earlier ruling that Moore and Dorning did not know what they were doing when they signed a confusing adoption consent form in 1998.
The court ordered the trial judge, Kenton County Circuit Judge Patricia Summe, to decide the case and award custody "on the basis of Justin's best interest."
A lawyer representing the Kentucky couple told The Cincinnati Enquirer for a story Friday that her clients are agreeable to allowing Justin to stay with the Asentes, but they are not willing to terminate their parental rights.
Moore and Dorning are interested in arranging some sort of visitation schedule rather than having the case drag on, lawyer Glenda Harrison said.
"They're taking into account that Justin has been with (the Asentes) for a number of years and Regina and Jerry want to have some sort of relationship with him," Harrison said.
Asente said he and his wife "would certainly entertain that idea if it would resolve it favorably for Justin."
Asente would not provide details of the offer and could not say when a settlement might be reached.
"My best guess is it will be several months out," he said. "Even a good faith settlement offer, we would have to settle down with our attorneys, they would have to settle down with their attorneys. I imagine there would be some give and take. Stuff like this just doesn't happen that fast."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)