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Polygamy creates unique child custody challenge

A man from another state who left a fundamentalist church that requires men to take multiple wives has had an uphill battle to remove his children from the control of the group. It took three years of fighting in court, but the father has finally been granted custody of his children.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had forced the man to leave their community as an apostate. He was meant to spend his time away from the group repenting, though he wasn’t told what he was to repent for. While outside the influence of the close-knit religious group, however, the man began to hear news reports about church leader Warren Jeffs. The charismatic leader was accused of taking 12-year-old girls as wives and his prosecution on criminal charges made national news. Fearing that his own daughters would face the same fate, he left the religious community and sought to bring his children with him.

The man’s efforts eventually paid off and he was granted sole custody of his children including 18 daughters. His first wife joined him in his quest for custody, but other former wives still reside in the community and fought his efforts to gain custody of the children and relocate them outside their polygamous community.

In the latest twist, the opposing attorney for the wives he represented has requested that the father pay his fees. The father’s lawyer warns that requiring the father to pay these fees would have a “chilling” effect on such lawsuits, discouraging other men from protecting their children from the potential harm by the group.

While most divorces in this country, including in Colorado, do not involve a custody dispute over eighteen children, parents involved in an argument over the support and custody of one child can have the same emotions. Regardless of individual circumstances, a parent who wants to fight for the custody of a child will likely face many unfamiliar obstacles in the legal proceedings. Having access to the knowledge of a family law attorney who understands how to navigate these obstacles will help all those involved, including the most important party – the child.

Source: The Spectrum, “Challenges continue for FLDS exile who won case,” by Kevin Jenkins, May 20, 2014

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