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Woody Allen-Mia Farrow Custody Trial: 1993

Life Imitating Art?, The Custody Trial Begins, The Aftermath

Defendant: Woody Allen
Plaintiff: Mia Farrow
Plaintiff Claim: Custody of three children Allen Shared with Mia Farrow
Chief Defense Lawyers: Alan M. Dershowitz, Eleanor B. Alter
Chief Lawyer for the Plaintiff: Elkan Abramowitz
Judge: Elliot Wilk
Place: New, York, New York
Date of Trial: March 19-June 7, 1993
Verdict: Petition for custody was denied

SIGNIFICANCE: This custody battle between two very public figures revealed just how painful such fights can be for all involved.

Woody Allen and Mia Farrow are not Hollywood stars—they stay away from the glamour of tinseltown. They are, nevertheless, famous film people, and millions flock to see their movies. The couple was never married, nor did they live together: During their relationship they inhabited separate apartments on opposite sides of Central Park in New York City. Together they had children and they were a family.

On August 13, 1992, the public gasped when Woody Allen filed suit against Mia Farrow for custody of their three children. Although the three children lived with Farrow, Allen was a frequent household visitor. Farrow adopted Moses Amadeus Farrow, 14, a Korean boy, after her divorce from noted symphony director Andre Previn. Later, Allen also adopted the boy. Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow, 7, a girl, was adopted as a baby by Farrow and Allen together in 1985. The couple's natural son, Satchel O'Sullivan Farrow, was 4 and one-half on that fateful day.

While the legal documents in the suit were immediately sealed, an excited public got the details from the celebrities themselves. Two New York newspapers, The Daily News and The New York Post reported that for the past eight months Allen had been having an affair with Farrow's 21-year-old daughter, Soon-Yi Farrow Previn, a Korean whom the actress had adopted when she was married to Previn. (Altogether, Farrow has 11 children, seven of whom are adopted.) Responding to these reports, Allen put out a press release saying, "It's real and happily all true." About the same time that Allen filed the custody suit, Connecticut State Police disclosed that they were investigating Allen's alleged sexual abuse of Dylan at Farrow's country home in Bridgewater. The well-known movie maker vehemently denied the allegation. He said it was a weapon used by Farrow to counter his efforts to win custody of the children.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994