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Comments: 6 May 2002. During the past two years, the state has attempted to close this site by whatever means possible. Their quest is on-going and relentless, to the point of harassment.

Published Wednesday, October 25, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Dad must take classes, pay child support in custody fight

Paul Scott Abbott can someday be reunited with his 5-year-old daughter, but only if he completes a series of tasks that Broward Circuit Judge Daniel True Andrews hopes will make him a better father.

Andrews, who heard testimony last month concerning Abbott's fitness as a parent, ruled that Abbott must complete a 36-week parenting class, a 26-week anger-management class and a program on domestic violence before he may be reunited with his daughter. Abbott also must pay child support to the state, and allow all his visits with his daughter to be supervised by a professional trained in sexual-abuse issues.

Abbott's daughter was removed from his care in 1998, after he was accused by Department of Children and Families officials of being an unfit parent. She has remained in an emergency shelter since then. Abbott, a free-lance journalist and Lutheran lay pastor, has been fighting ever since to regain custody of the girl.

At a hearing Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, an attorney for the Guardian ad Litem program asked Andrews to suspend Abbott's visitations with his daughter until he was able to show authorities he was making progress with therapy, and no longer constituted a risk to his daughter.

``It's the guardian's perception that he's jumped through all the hoops -- and learned nothing,'' said attorney A. Margaret Hesford, who represents the Guardian ad Litem program. ``There has been no growth, and until there's growth, there will be no change.''

Abbott has been allowed 16 hours a week of supervised visits with his daughter. The Florida Department of Children and Families had attempted to end his visits as well, said Assistant Attorney General Jill Bennett, but did not press the issue until the guardian's office decided to join in the request.

Hesford also asked Andrews to order Abbott to stop providing details of the case on an Internet website devoted to so-called abuses by the Department of Children and Families. The site contains graphic details of testimony in the case, including allegations the child has been molested and has acted out sexually.

Hesford said she had ``tremendous concerns'' about the site. ``To be able to put those types of details'' on the Internet, Hesford said, ``the court should order that to stop.''

Brett Rogers, Abbott's attorney, said Abbott did not maintain the site, though Hesford said he was listed as a contributor.

``I'm not going to do it,'' Andrews replied. ``I'm not going to touch that one.''

In a tearful plea to the judge, Abbott showed a series of pictures his daughter drew during a recent visit, showing Abbott and the girl on a trip to Disney World, and returning home.

``Judge, I have never, would never, could never do anything in any way to hurt my daughter,'' Abbott said, sobbing.

``If you're looking for child abusers in the courtroom, you should look over at that table there,'' he said, pointing to attorneys for the Department of Children and Families, and Guardian ad Litem. ``That's where the child abusers sit, people who take innocent children away from innocent parents.''

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