Monday, June 24, 2019 Elyria 70°

Cops and Courts

Surrogate mom gets temporary custody; biological dad sues


ELYRIA — A Lorain father has filed a lawsuit against the surrogate mother of his 4-year-old daughter for breach of contract after a judge awarded temporary custody to the surrogate, who in the initial surrogacy contract agreed to have no contact with the child.

Last week, Thomas Mika filed a lawsuit against Sanchia Weinstein, of Lorain, for fraud and breach of contract for violating a surrogate agreement.

According to the lawsuit, the two sides entered into the agreement in 2013 and Mika supplied his frozen sperm to be artificially inseminated with one of Weinstein’s eggs. Weinstein was then to carry the child until birth and then have no legal rights to the child.

The child was to be adopted by Mika and his then-wife, Judith Salter, according to the lawsuit.

In June, Weinstein filed a custody complaint against Mika, who Mika’s lawsuit alleges violated the surrogacy agreement.

“Remarkably despite clear law, the court in (the case) granted temporary custody to (Weinstein),” the lawsuit said.

On June 29, Lorain County Domestic Relations Judge Frank Janik granted temporary custody of the child to Weinstein, according to court records.

Mika’s lawsuit gives the impression that Weinstein filed the motion seeking custody of the girl after not having seen her for the last four years. But court documents show that wasn’t the case.

During a hearing on the temporary custody motion, Mika told the court that the original plan was for he and his wife, Salter, to adopt the child after her birth, but due to Mika and Salter getting divorced, the adoption never was finalized.

And, Mika testified, “that in spite of the surrogate contract and the court’s prior order from 2014, he had kept (Weinstein) involved with (the child) through the use of the plaintiff as a baby sitter.”

Testimony in the hearing showed Weinstein babysat the girl from birth until September 2017, when Mika terminated the arrangement. Also during that time, the child referred to Weinstein as “Mom” and was told she would “always have two mothers,” according to court documents.

The decision to terminate Weinstein’s contact with the child was a “unilateral” one between Mika and his current wife, Elizabeth Rodriguez, according to court documents.

Court records show that Rodriguez was arrested on a driving under the influence charge on June 9, and had to appear in Huron Municipal Court on the matter. On June 12, Rodriguez pleaded no contest and “had to spend some time in jail and her driver’s license was suspended for 365 days.”

Despite the suspension, Rodriguez continued to pick the child up from day care in the afternoon, court testimony showed. Each of the trips was a violation of Rodriguez’s limited driving permit, according to court documents.

Mika testified he “had no problems with Rodriguez picking up (the child) from day care, even though Rodriguez was in violation of her driving permit and was, in fact, driving without a valid license each time she was alone in a car with (the child).”

Weinstein, meanwhile, testified that a member of Rodriguez’s family called and informed her the child “may be in danger from instability on the part of Rodriguez,” court documents said. Weinstein also said she learned Rodriguez had several prior DUIs, and she discovered the child had stayed at Blessing House three times in a seven-month period.

Blessing House is a center where a child can reside as long as necessary if that child’s home is either unstable or there are issues of unrest in the home, such as domestic violence, homelessness, parent hospitalization or stabilization, court documents said.

Court records show the child stayed at Blessing House from Nov. 24 until Nov. 27, 2017, for the stated reason of “parent addressing mental health needs.” From April 24 through May 17 she again stayed there while “the parents were meeting with service providers and initiating therapeutic services for the child.”

The girl again stayed at Blessing House from June 12 through June 17 due to her “stepmother addressing mental health issues and (the child) needed a safe place to stay until the situation becomes stabilized,” court documents said. During testimony, Mika said the June stay was “when Rodriguez was incarcerated for her DUI” and he “needed a safe place for (the child) while Rodriguez was in jail.”

The court found that Rodriguez driving the child around without a valid license “demonstrates that Rodriguez possesses poor reasoning skills,” which placed the child’s personal safety at risk. Mika’s seeing nothing wrong with Rodriguez driving the child “gives pause to the court to question the decision making skills of both the defendant and Rodriguez when it comes to (the child’s) welfare.”

The court also said the child developed an emotional attachment to Weinstein after spending much time with her since birth.

“In sum, the best interests for (the child) at this time would be to remain with plaintiff until the court has an opportunity to fully address the change of custody complaint filed contemporaneously with the (emergency temporary custody order),” court documents said.

Mika is seeking more than $30,000 in damages and more than $50,000 in punitive damages, according to the lawsuit. In the custody case, a motion to dismiss the case filed by Mika is pending.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.
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