WASHINGTON -- In closing at least one part of a lengthy and tortured chapter of his life, Dr. Eric Foretich, the Northern Virginia oral surgeon whose bitter child custody battle with his ex-wife turned into an international spectacle, said yesterday he had given up hopes of having a "meaningful relationship" with his 8-year-old daughter any time in the near future.
His statement came on the heels of a ruling Nov. 21 by a New Zealand family court judge awarding custody of young Hilary Foretich to her mother, Dr. Elizabeth Morgan, the District of Columbia plastic surgeon who has been living in Christchurch, New Zealand, since March, when her daughter was discovered there.
In not contesting the court decision, Dr. Foretich said in a written statement issued yesterday by his secretary, "It is my desire that Hilary have a life of peace and quiet and that's why I've elected to take a passive role. I am convinced that as long as Elizabeth Morgan has control over Hilary's life that I will have no possibility of a meaningful relationship with her.
"I can only hope and pray that Hilary will grow up with as much privacy and dignity as possible."
Dr. Foretich has said he would not try to visit his daughter until she is older.
Dr. Morgan, who accused her ex-husband of sexually abusing their daughter, sent Hilary into hiding with her maternal grandparents in August 1987 rather than comply with an order by D.C. Superior Court Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr. for unsupervised visits between the child and Dr. Foretich. Dr. Morgan, in turn, spent the next 25 months in the D.C. Detention Center for her action. Dr. Foretich has consistently denied the charges of abuse.
Hilary was discovered living in a motel in New Zealand in February in the care of Dr. Morgan's parents, Antonia and William Morgan. Soon after they were discovered, Dr. Morgan joined them.
Under the terms of the order, Dr. Morgan must remain with her daughter in New Zealand. She also must report to the court periodically on the child's progress and must refrain from speaking to the press. New Zealand courts have been highly critical of the overwhelming publicity generated by the case. Dr. Morgan's family and attorney declined to comment because of the gag order.
Federal Appeals Court Judge Paul Michel, Dr. Morgan's husband of one year, plans to remain in Washington -- as he has this year -- but to visit the family in New Zealand as often as his finances and job will allow. (The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sits one week a month.)
Dr. Morgan, her daughter and her mother, Antonia Morgan, were said to be moving to a rented house in Christchurch next week; they have been living in a motel since the lease on a previous house they rented expired. William Morgan, Dr. Morgan's father, returned to the United States in the spring, citing health problems.
Sources say that Dr. Morgan is studying psychology in graduate school in New Zealand and that she is basing her dissertation on her experience in jail. Although Judge Dixon's court order for unsupervised visitation between Dr. Foretich and Hilary is still in effect, sources say Dr. Morgan hopes to return to the United States with her daughter in two to four years.