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Judge rules girl switched at birth can sue for "divorce'

A 14-year-old girl who was swapped at birth with another baby has a right to sue her biological parents for "divorce" to keep them from taking her from the man who raised her, a judge ruled.

Circuit Judge Stephen Dakan ruled Friday in favor of Kimberly Mays although she is a minor. Her attorney, George Russ of Leesburg, cited precedents, including a minor's right in Florida to choose abortion.

"If a minor child can invoke the Florida Constitution to affirm her individual rights in these cases," wrote Dakan, "then surely a minor child has the right to assert a constitutional privilege to resist an attempt to remove her from the only home she has known . . . and declare her the child of strangers."

Trial in the case is set for Aug. 2.

Russ had argued at a hearing June 9 that it "would be emotionally devastating to remove" the girl from Bob Mays' custody.

At that the same hearing, John Blakely, attorney for the girl's biological parents, Ernest and Regina Twigg of Sebring, evoked tears from Kimberly by declaring:

"Kimberly Mays died five years ago. The lady sitting at the table is Arlena Twigg. . . . The closest thing Bob Mays is, is a foster parent."

Kimberly and another girl born in Hardee Memorial Hospital in 1978 were switched soon after birth and sent home with the wrong parents. The girl the Twiggs took home and named Arlena died in 1988, and medical tests conducted while she was ill determined that she was not related to the Twiggs.

Genetic testing later showed that Kimberly is the Twiggs' biological daughter. Mays and the Twiggs have been embroiled in a bitter legal battle ever since.

After negotiations crumbled, the Twiggs sued Kimberly Mays and her father for custody.

After watching television accounts of the Gregory K. parental "divorce" case, Kimberly says she decided to sue to end her five-year legal fight. She hired Russ, who represented Gregory K. and later adopted him.

Russ said he cannot understand the persistence of the Twiggs, which he said borders on obsession.

"What they're doing is definitely not in Kimberly's best interest. If they really loved this child, they wouldn't be doing this to her."

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