Twigg v. Mays
The Rights Of A Child
In June of 1993, Circuit Judge Stephen Dakan in a preliminary ruling found that Kimberly, despite being a minor, had the right to sue her biological parents for "divorce" to keep them from legally removing her from Robert Mays. Dakan wrote that "surely a minor child has the right to assert a constitutional privilege to resist an attempt to remove her from the only home she has known and declare her the child of strangers." Nonetheless, the Twiggs responded by suing Robert Mays for visitation rights.
On 2 August 1993 the trial on the Twiggs' claim began. Judge Dakan was to decide whether the Twiggs, the biological parents, would have visitation rights to Kimberly, or whether all legal ties between them would be severed.
Kimberly argued the key question to be answered was, "What constitutes a family?" George Russ, in arguing against visitation by the Twiggs, stated, "Biology alone without more does not create or sustain a family." Kimberly, he contended, held a loving, psychological bond with Robert. To legally require her to visit a family she considered strangers would be humiliating to a child.
The Twiggs' countered they at least held a right to visit the child who was their flesh and blood. They stressed that Robert did not live up to the 1978 agreement allowing the Twiggs visitation. This action by Mays had been devastating to the Twiggs. It was as if Kimberly had been taken from them twice.
Despite Mays' assertions that the visitations were upsetting to Kimberly, the Twiggs and their children testified to the contrary that Kimberly appeared "vivacious, bubbly, lovely and sweet." She actually seemed to enjoy her few visits with the family. Kimberly even called Regina "mom" while playing at a miniature golf course. Kimberly even enjoyed a special bedroom set up for her in the Twiggs' seven-bedroom Sebring home, furnished with dolls and a large photograph of Kimberly over the bed.
The Twiggs argued Kimberly's feelings should not be considered. Because of her youth, she likely did not fully appreciate the implications of her decisions. "I really don't think she knows the impact of what she is doing. When she has her own children and looks back, she may really regret the decision she has made now," argued Regina.
Psychologist Dr. Harold Smith testified on behalf of the Twiggs that ninth-graders still tended to think like children, lacking the maturity to decide important matters such as where to live. He further testified that visitation could cause no harm, that children are normally easily adaptable to such arrangements. Court-appointed psychologist Herbert Goldstein contradicted Smith's opinions. He asserted that visits with the Twiggs could prove devastating to Kimberly. Goldstein also contended Regina Twigg had psychological problems causing her to put her needs ahead of others. Kimberly begged Judge Dakan to end her torment and pleaded for refuge from the Twiggs, not wanting to ever see them again.
After two weeks of trial, Judge Dakan ruled Kimberly was free to cease any further contact with her biological parents and affirmed that the man who raised her was her legal father. Dakan wrote that Kimberly's psychological relationship with Robert should be considered more important than her biological link to the Twiggs. Dakan wrote, "The effect of this judgment is that the Twiggs have no legal interest in or right to Kimberly Mays; that Robert Mays' legal status as the father of Kimberly Mays remains unchanged."
It is clear, Dakan wrote, "that the Twiggs are seen by her as a constant source of danger to her father and to her family relationship." He contended the Twiggs' aggressiveness to obtain visitation rights and their attacks on Robert "created a chasm between Kimberly Mays and the Twiggs that may never be bridged."