Dad Seeks Permanent Custody of Evan, Now 5; the Judge Isn't Allowed to Give the Boy Back to His Adoptive Parents

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Byline: PAUL PINKHAM

For nearly four years, he was raised as Evan Scott by an Atlantic Beach couple who thought they had adopted him.

But the adoption fell through in a three-way custody battle, and he was sent last year to live with his mother and stepfather in Chicago. His name became Evan Johnson.

In November, amid charges of child abuse by his stepfather, Evan went to live temporarily with his father in Maine.

His father, Stephen White, asked a Jacksonville judge on Thursday to make that arrangement permanent, saying Evan is better off with him. He was bolstered by a court-appointed child custody evaluator and a New Hampshire counselor who has examined the 5-year-old boy.

White also asked Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace to change the boy's name again, to Evan White.

Evan's mother, Amanda Johnson Hopkins, and her husband are scheduled to testify today in Evan's final custody hearing, along with a Chicago psychologist who also has examined the child. The hearing is scheduled to wrap up today, but Wallace isn't likely to make a decision right away.

Wallace has to decide whether Evan's primary residence will be with his father or mother. The courts already have decided he can't return to Dawn and Gene Scott, who raised him from birth in their Atlantic Beach home.

The Scotts were in court for part of the day Thursday but left during White's testimony for a scheduled visit with Evan. The boy won't appear in court.

White teared up one time during his three hours on the witness stand, when he told Wallace about his decision to let the Scotts visit Evan in Maine. He said one of Evan's psychologists recommended the visit, but his mind was made up after he played a video of the Scotts for the boy.

"He actually went up and touched the screen. If you had seen his face, you knew he missed them," White testified. "I knew right then he had to see them."

White said he has no problem with Evan's mother visiting whenever she can but testified he is concerned about potential abuse by her husband, sailor Michael Hopkins. …