ERIE, Pa. – A judge Friday awarded final legal custody to a surrogate mother who gave birth to triplets and then refused to give them up, saying the biological father and his fiancée showed a lack of interest.
In his ruling, Erie County Judge Shad Connelly said Danielle Bimber, 30, “is the better caretaker by far.”
Connelly had already named Bimber the legal mother of the three boys, who were born Nov. 19, 2003, and granted her temporary primary custody last year.
“I’m so happy,” Bimber said. “All of the things that I’ve been trying to stress throughout this whole thing, the judge really picked up on.”
Bimber agreed to become a surrogate mother with Surrogate Mothers Inc. at the end of 2001. The Monrovia, Ind.-based agency matched Bimber with Cleveland State University professor James O. Flynn, 63, and they signed a $20,000 contract.
The agency also located an egg donor, whose eggs were fertilized with Flynn’s sperm and implanted into Bimber. The boys were born slightly premature.
Bimber took the children home against Flynn’s wishes eight days after they were born, saying Flynn and his fiancée didn’t name the children or visit them for six days after seeing them when they were born.
The case was further complicated by a lawsuit filed by the egg donor, Jennifer Michelle Rice of Texas, who also sought contact with the triplets. Connelly said in Friday’s ruling, however, Rice has failed to pursue her case, and the order only addressed Bimber and Flynn.
Bimber, who also has children ages 9, 7 and 3, said she expects Flynn to appeal.
Flynn’s attorney, James Richardson, confirmed the ruling but declined to comment. Flynn did not immediately return phone messages left at his office and his Kirtland, Ohio, home Friday evening.
In the ruling, Connelly said while Flynn makes $136,000 a year – far more than the Bimbers – and lives in a bigger house, those things do not make him more fit to be a parent. Connelly noted Flynn failed to offer child support until his wages were garnished.
The judge also said Flynn failed to take any days off from work when the children were with him for 12 days last July. “Plaintiff has not bonded with or been involved with his children as much as he claims,” Connelly wrote.
The judge awarded Flynn weekend custody and ordered him to use Bimber’s chosen names for the boys – Matthew, Micah and Mark – while declaring Flynn their legal last name. Flynn calls them Easton, Lance and Shane.