The Mississippi Court of Appeals, in Davidson v. Coit, Miss. Ct. App., No. 2002-CA-01570, 2/1/05, ruled that a custodial mother’s exposure of her daughters to her lesbian lifestyle and her failure to take them to church were properly considered by a trial court in changing custody to their father.
While acknowledging that the divorce court was aware of the mother’s sexual preference when it originally awarded her custody (and that the fact that she was a lesbian would not support modification), the court found that the evidence buttressed the father’s contention that her post-divorce conduct was detrimental to the children. It also found that in awarding custody to the father the trial court did not err in taking into account the fact that the mother did not take the children to church When the parties divorced in 1997, they were granted joint custody of their two daughters, with the mother having primary physical custody. In 2001, the father filed for modification, asserting that the children (then ages 7 and 9) had been exposed to the mother’s lesbian lifestyle and that her live-in girlfriends and the maternal grandmother were raising them.
At the hearing on the father’s petition, a family therapist testified that the children had admitted to him that most of their primary care was provided by their mother’s live-in girlfriend and that they had been exposed to their mother’s sexual behavior (they knew she shared a bedroom with her girlfriend and saw them watching movies showing “naked women … kissing each other and lying next to each other”). At the end of the hearing, the trial judge ordered that the children be taken to church, stating: “I want the children in church wherever they may be.” He then awarded the father temporary custody, pending a final ruling on the matter.
A subsequent hearing was held in 2002, at which the court questioned the mother about her not being affiliated with or taking the children to any church. The court subsequently issued an order modifying the divorce decree and granting the father permanent custody. The court’s determination was based in part on its conclusion that the mother was “lacking in some aspects of her moral character,” stemming from the facts that the mother “[l]ets other watch her children more than she does” and “[n]ever takes the children to church or any other moral character building programs,” as well as from her own mother’s concerns about her “motherly instincts,” and the mother’s “change of partners.” The mother appealed.