Court reportedly parts Foretich, second daughter

December 07, 1990|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,Washington Bureau of The Sun Lyle Denniston of The Sun's Washington Bureau contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- One week after a foreign court all but cut off a Virginia father's ties to one daughter in a celebrated family dispute, a court reportedly has taken similar action to distance him from his second daughter.

Dr. Eric Foretich, a McLean, Va., oral surgeon and the father in an international child-custody tangle, conceded in an interview yesterday that he had now "lost both children."

The two children are a 10-year-old daughter who lives in McLean with her mother, Sharon Sullivan, who was Dr. Foretich's second wife; and Hilary Foretich, 8, who lives in New Zealand with her mother, Dr. Elizabeth Morgan, Dr. Foretich's third wife.

Dr. Morgan won custody of Hilary in a New Zealand court last week.

"I've lost everything -- everything but my pride and dignity," Dr. Foretich said yesterday. "I've lost both children. I know that. I've lost both kids. . . . It's done. It's over."

Dr. Foretich indicated that a key hearing had been held Tuesday in Fairfax County Circuit Court regarding his other daughter, but he refused to describe the specific legal outcome, and court aides said that records in the case were sealed.

Sources close to the family, however, said that Fairfax County Circuit Judge F. Bruce Bach issued directives for an order to legally suspend Dr. Foretich's visitation rights with his older daughter, based on a therapist's recommendation that visits with him were not in the child's best interest. Sources said the order was being drafted by Dr. Foretich's attorney, Jack Crickenberger, who could not be reached yesterday, and the attorney for the child, Joseph Bonifer, who refused to comment.

One source said that the order would only bar visitations; another source said that Dr. Foretich would lose all parental rights concerning that child; and a third source said that the suspension of visits between father and daughter would continue indefinitely -- until the child decided she wanted them to resume.

Dr. Foretich said he was not sure yet whether he would take further legal steps in an attempt to regain parental rights over his older daughter. He said he was considering asking the court to have her evaluated by another therapist before deciding what to do next.

He also indicated that he was considering further legal action in Hilary's case in New Zealand. There, the court barred Dr. Foretich from visiting his daughter "in the immediate future." Yesterday, the father said he might ask the High Court of New Zealand to impose stricter supervision on the child's mother, but he added that he had no intention of trying to overturn the award of custody to Dr. Morgan.

"I'm not asking for Hilary to be taken out of Elizabeth's home," he said.

The mothers of both children have formally accused Dr. Foretich court of sexually abusing the two girls. Dr. Foretich has denied the accusations. Last year, Ms. Sullivan filed a $4 million civil suit against Dr. Foretich, on behalf of her daughter, for assault.

Dr. Foretich said in yesterday's interview that Judge Bach had said at the Tuesday hearing that he did not believe the 10-year-old had ever been sexually molested by her father but that the girl herself believed it.

"[My daughter] doesn't want to see me. I'll admit that," Dr. Foretich said, adding that he believed the child had been coached and influenced through the years by her mother.

"She's totally in her mother's camp. I've been completely disenfranchised. The judge said no man has been more abused than I have been."

One of the sources disclosing what had happened Tuesday said that Judge Bach had said that as long as the girl continued to believe that her father did abuse her, there would be "no point" in allowing them to have a relationship. The key legal issue at the hearing was what was in the child's "best interests," not whether the claim of sexual abuse had been proved.

Dr. Foretich's second wife has custody of the child, but thFairfax County Circuit Court has been considering the question of visitation with her father for several years. With the exception of brief visits in therapists' offices, the father and daughter have not been together since January 1986.

Although a caseworker for the Fairfax County Department of Social Services reported that charges of sexual abuse were "founded" in 1985, the case was referred to the Fairfax County Juvenile Court, which, in 1986, found no conclusive proof of sexual abuse and issued an order allowing visitation. Ms. Sullivan appealed the decision, and a six-day trial was held before Judge Bach in Fairfax County Circuit Court in June 1987.

The evidence offered in the proceedings, including the physical evidence, was highly contradictory. Dr. Charles I. Shubin, director of pediatrics at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, who had found evidence of abuse in Hilary three months before he examined her half-sister in November 1986, testified that there was evidence of a "healed sexual injury."

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