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FOSTER DAD, BIRTH MOM RENEW WAR : UNRELATED MAN BATTLES TO RETAIN 8-YEAR-OLD HE CLAIMS AS DAUGHTER.

Byline: Mary Beth Alexander Daily News Staff Writer

More than two years after a judge awarded primary custody of a little girl to a man with no blood ties, the man and the child's birth mother faced off again Wednesday in family law court.

Judge Martha Goldin reopened the custody hearing after an appellate court overturned her 1993 decision to name Kevin Thomas the ``natural father'' of Courtney Thomas. Goldin was ordered to reconsider who would best care for the girl, now 8.

A ruling is due today.

Before the hearing, Glen Schwartz, the attorney for Kevin Thomas, said he was ``extraordinarily confident'' the judge would stick with her original decision to award the man primary custody of Courtney.

``Kevin Thomas is a hero,'' said Schwartz, who specializes in paternity and custody cases. ``What he has gone through with this child and for this child for the eight years of her life . . . is exemplary. It just should be rewarded.''

But Catherine Thomas' attorney, Michael Goch, maintains that his client should be named Courtney's primary caretaker, especially since Catherine Thomas never was declared an unfit mother in the first trial.

Goch has said that, based on the appellate ruling, his client should have custody because her rights as Courtney's birth mother precede Kevin Thomas' rights as a nonbiological caregiver.

The lawyers declined any comment after Wednesday's hearing, which will resume today.

Catherine Thomas and Kevin Thomas were platonic friends who agreed when Courtney was born to raise the child together. Kevin Thomas even changed his last name to match Courtney's.

A bitter custody battle ensued when Catherine Thomas asserted that Kevin Thomas was becoming obsessive over Courtney. When Kevin was awarded custody, Catherine Thomas fled with the girl. She later was arrested.

Barred from the proceedings, Catherine Thomas' eldest son, Michael, 19, steadfastly insisted outside the courtroom Wednesday that his mother should raise Courtney.

``What's best for Courtney is to be with me, be with my brother, be with my mom,'' Michael Thomas said. ``My mother provided for us in the fullest. Our house was full of love.''

Schwartz said he hopes to prove that Kevin Thomas has been an excellent provider for Courtney, who suffers from a condition called Dandy Walker syndrome and requires special schooling and medical care.

He said he will show it would be detrimental to send her back to Catherine Thomas.

``What we hope to prove in the course of this hearing (is that) her frequent changes in residences, her intermittent abandonment of her other children - and I'm referring to her running away on two occasions and leaving her other children behind - and her apparent priorities of putting her interest above that of her children, (are) all tantamount to an uncaring, uninterested and therefore unfit mother,'' Schwartz said.

Since the appeal ruling, each adult Thomas has claimed that the other is unworthy or unfit to be the custodial parent of the girl.

Kevin Thomas insists that Catherine Thomas has not tried to contact her daughter, even after the girl had heart surgery. Catherine Thomas insists that Kevin Thomas has thwarted her efforts to see or talk to her daughter.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 11, 1996
Words:523
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