An occupational therapist and day-care center director painted the picture of a dedicated, active mom when they took the stand Tuesday in the continuing battle between two Sharon women over the custody of their daughter.

Occupational therapist Jennifer Bittner and Sandra Love, director of operations for Sycamore Center in Hermitage, said biological mother Jeannette Rowan is timely for appointments and very involved with her 7-year-old daughter.

Ms. Rowan’s former partner of 11 years, Lisa Lewis, is seeking visitation and eventually partial custody of the girl, whom she helped to raise for five years before the couple split two years ago.

Ms. Rowan opposes the visitation and shared custody, based on her claims that Ms. Lewis was not suitably active in the child’s life and that she is ill-prepared to care for the girl’s special needs that include autism, asthma, weak muscles, an immune deficiency and a mitochondrial illness that leaves her weak and requires a strict regimen of nutrients and enzymes.

Ms. Bittner told Mercer County Common Pleas Court she has worked with the girl since April 2003, teaching her how to get dressed, swim and brush her teeth. Ms. Bittner described Ms. Rowan’s cooperation as “superb” and added that she was consistently on time and maintained ongoing communication throughout the therapy.

Ms. Bittner said she met Ms. Lewis only once, and Ms. Lewis had never asked for training in the girl’s therapies or for a progress update.

Ms. Lewis’ attorney, J. Jarrett K. Whalen, implied through questioning that while the couple lived together, Ms. Lewis stayed home and filled in for Ms. Rowan who cared for two mentally retarded individuals who require full-time supervision; Ms. Rowan was then free to take their daughter to therapy.

Ms. Love told the court Ms. Rowan spent a lot of time at the day care asking for details of her daughter’s stays there. She said Ms. Lewis would check the logs but not question any staff.

Testimony is to resume Feb. 4.

The custody battle has dragged on for two years and Ms. Lewis has not seen her daughter for more than a year.

Ms. Lewis has been granted “in loco parentis” standing to pursue custody three times. But because of delays and speedy trial rules, she has twice had to refile and re-establish standing.

Ms. Rowan is the girl’s biological mother and Ms. Lewis’ nephew, Jeremy Archer, fathered the girl. Archer testified Friday via video from prison, where he is serving a life sentence for the 2005 slaying of Kristen Truchan of Shenango Township.

Ms. Lewis has said she believed Ms. Rowan chose Archer to be the father because she wanted the child she conceived to have blood ties to Ms. Lewis.

Custody fights for gay couples can be problematic in Pennsylvania, where there are no gay marriages or civil unions and no legal framework for divorce.

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