Adult with Dwarfism or Child? Why Ukrainian Orphan Natalia Grace Is Suing Her Adoptive Parents

The story of Natalia Grace has been in and out the headlines for years and it seems to get stranger with each passing day.

A Ukrainian orphan, Natalia has a rare form of dwarfism and was adopted by Americans Michael and Kristine Barnett in 2010. They believed her to be six years old at the time but later accused her of being an adult masquerading as a child. In 2013, the couple moved Natalia into an apartment in Indiana by herself and moved with their other children to Canada.

The age claims were corroborated by a court that legally changed Natalia’s birth year from 2003 to 1989 in 2012. It all got called into question again, however, after the pair was charged with multiple counts of neglecting a dependent in 2019 and a 2023 blood test found Natalia to be in her twenties – suggesting she was a child when she was adopted. 

While Michael was found not guilty in October 2022 and criminal charges against Kristine were dismissed in March 2023, Natalia is now seeking civil damages. On Friday’s show, Megyn was joined by defense attorneys Mark Geragos and Jonna Spilbor to discuss the sensational story and what recourse Natalia may have.

The Curious Case of Natalia Grace

The renewed interest in Natalia’s story is in large part due to the docuseries The Curious Case of Natalia Grace that is now in its second season.

The Barnetts, who have since divorced, claim they became suspicious of Natalia’s age due to the fact that she had pubic hair and was menstruating from the time they brought her home. They also alleged that she was homicidal and tried to harm them and their biological children.

Two years after adopting her, the couple successfully petitioned the Marion County Probate Court in Indiana to have Natalia’s age legally changed to 22. A year later, in 2013, they moved to Canada without her. After reportedly living on her own in an apartment, Natalia moved in with another Indiana couple, Cynthia and Antwon Mans, that same year. 

She has maintained that she was a child when she was adopted, and a blood test conducted by TruDiagnostic in August 2023 determined her to be approximately 22 years old. “This one little piece of paper throws every single lie that the Barnetts have said right into the trash with a match,” Natalia said in the new season of the docuseries that premiered January 1. “It just proves that I was not lying about my age.”

Natalia’s Civil Case

The saga doesn’t end there though, and Megyn teased that you’ll have to watch the series to see what is now going on with Natalia and the Mans family. Even so, there are plenty of questions to be raised over whether or not she has a case – criminal or civil – against the Barnetts.

As it relates to reviving criminal charges, Geragos said it was unlikely. “I don’t know how they would do that or that would be the prosecutorial decision,” he said. “I can’t imagine that they could do that bit when they’ve got a court that has blessed it unless there’s some other auxiliary charge that the prosecutor would want to bring if the prosecutor believes that the parents had done this willfully or maliciously.”

While criminal charges may be off the table at this point, it appears as though Natalia is interested in going after the Barnetts civilly. “If she came into your office and said, ‘The criminal law is not going to go after them, but I want to sue them for all the pain and suffering they’ve put me through… I didn’t do any of those terrible things, so not only did they kick me out and put me alone but now they’ve disparaged me in this movie’… what’s the lawsuit,” Megyn asked. 

Spilbor admitted that there may be something to a case like that, but she cautioned that it could prove futile. “She might have some cause of action, but the real question is going to be how much do [the Barnetts] have,” she concluded. “Because if they’re not filthy rich, she’s not gonna get a lot of money.”

You can check out Megyn’s full Kelly’s Court with Geragos and Spilbor by tuning in to episode 706 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.