A Sharon woman embroiled in a custody battle with her former girlfriend is asking a Mercer County judge to grant her custody of the 10-year-old at the center of the 5-year legal fight.
The move is a way to get Ohio authorities to enforce a Mercer County judge’s order that currently has no teeth across the border, where custody laws and recognition of same-sex partnerships are different than in Pennsylvania.
Last week marked two years since Lisa Lewis has seen the girl she helped raise with former partner Jeannette Rowan of Oxford, Ohio.
In March, Mercer County Judge Christopher J. St. John issued a warrant for Rowan’s arrest for not complying with his order that she return to Mercer County with the girl and let Lewis visit.
Lewis’ attorney J. K. “Jarrett” Whalen said Ohio authorities refuse to honor St. John’s order because Lewis has only been granted visitation by the courts, and under Ohio law, visitation is a lesser form of custody.
“People are getting wrapped around the axle” on the phrase, Whalen said. “It’s a shame because it’s essentially allowing Ms. Rowan to hide behind the Ohio system and ignore Pennsylvania.”
If Lewis had “any type of custody” then officials in Ohio will enforce the warrant, Whalen said.
Whalen said that Pennsylvania custody laws just eliminated the word “visitation” and replaced it with “restricted partial custody.”
They’re seeking “primary physical custody,” court documents said.
St. John scheduled a pre-hearing conference at the end of the month in the case. Whalen said they’ll either discuss a settlement or set the case for trial.
Whalen noted in a recent court filing that Rowan failed to appear in court in the past and refused to agree to anything when she did show up.
St. John found Rowan in contempt several times before, including last fall when she spent one night in Mercer County Jail for ignoring the judge’s orders.
Dragging things out hurts the child, Whalen said.
When Lewis did have visits with the girl, the supervisor said they were “wonderful.”
Whalen said Lewis and her daughter have a bond that’s “being attacked by Ms. Rowan and we can’t do anything about it because Ohio won’t enforce our order.”
According to court documents, Lewis helped raise the girl from birth to age 5, when the couple split up after 11 years as a couple.
Lewis first filed a lawsuit against Rowan in 2007 and was granted parental rights in Pennsylvania.
In March, Whalen said Rowan owed Lewis 246 hours of visitation with the child and St. John also ordered Rowan to pay part of Lewis’ legal expenses.
Rowan has repeatedly claimed the girl suffers from many health conditions that make it difficult for her to travel or go to school, but Whalen said he’s been through “thousands of pages” of medical records and “nobody could definitively state what the child has” because most of the diagnoses have been based on what Rowan said was wrong with the girl.
“We believe the child has something going on, but we don’t believe anybody knows” exactly what it is because Rowan “keeps bouncing” from doctor to doctor.
Rowan’s attorney Autumn Johnson said she had no comment on the case.
The girl’s biological father is Lewis’ nephew Jeremy Archer, who has not been involved in the girl’s life. He is serving a life sentence in prison for the 2005 murder of Kristen Truchan in Sharon.
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