Appeals Court Rules in Favor of South Florida Doctor in Custody Battle

By Ari Odzer

The emergency room physician who lost shared custody of her child because a judge ruled that her exposure to COVID-19 was a threat to the child’s safety just got it back, thanks to an appeals court ruling

The case sparked an avalanche of social media commentary as an example of how the coronavirus pandemic is upending families.

Last Thursday, Dr. Theresa Greene felt blindsided when a circuit judge issued an emergency order requested by Eric Greene, the child’s father and Theresa Greene’s former husband. Now that the Third District Court of Appeals has stayed the circuit court’s order, Dr. Greene’s mood has lifted.

”I’m absolutely ecstatic, I’m cautious, there’s still some fear there that this isn’t the end, but I’m absolutely ecstatic, I just want to hug everyone but there’s no one here to hug besides the dog!” Dr. Greene said, referring to the fact that her daughter is with her ex-husband.

Eric Greene had asked for and was granted sole custody of their four-year-old daughter until the pandemic is over. The appeals court ruling means mom and dad will return to their 50-50 shared custody arrangement, as they await a final ruling.

“We’re very optimistic but we’re also very cautious, there are lots of other steps that need to be taken before this becomes a permanent thing, we don’t know, this could be the first battle in the war,” Dr. Greene said.

Is this case setting a precedent? Not yet, says Dr. Greene’s attorney.

“We’re hopeful at the conclusion of this it will be a precedent that will be set that first responders, medical professionals will not be forced to pick between their child and their profession at a time of crisis,” said Steven Nullman, Dr. Greene’s lawyer.

Eric Greene’s lawyer, Paul Leinoff, sent us a statement, which says in part,

“Mr. Greene’s concern was and continues to be the immediate safety of the minor child … Just as Mr. Greene initially sought the help of the law to protect the child, he will comply with and honor this latest order of the appellate court regarding the most appropriate means to maintain the child’s safety.”

So the father says their child is safer with him, mom says the opposite is true.

”Less than 10% of coronavirus cases are in pediatric population, and most of them are asymptomatic or mild illness,” Dr. Greene said.

She says her life has been flipped upside down since she was hit with the judge’s order last week.

“It’s just been heart-wrenching, you know I had to give her up and just not knowing when I’d get her back, it’s been very busy, working on this constantly and trying to fight it, I haven’t been able to sleep, haven’t been able to eat, it’s really been a lot of turmoil here and I just can’t wait to have everything back to normal and have my daughter back and be able to go back to work,” said Dr. Greene.

Dr. Greene says she’s overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she’s received from her colleagues and from strangers on social media.

She also acknowledges critics who say if there’s a safer option for her daughter, she should take it, even if that means giving up custody for the time being.

“It should be up to the parents to make the decision together and i wasn’t even given that option by my ex-husband,” Dr. Greene said.

Now she’s focused on the ongoing legal appeal, going back to work, and making things as normal as possible for a little girl.

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