Mother wins custody of kids after fleeing Bountiful

Testified against convicted polygamist leader Warren Jeffs

CanWest News Service, Canada/December 5, 2007

By Keith Fraser

Vancouver -- Calling the polygamist-church issue "an elephant in the corner," a judge has granted sole interim custody and guardianship to an Idaho mother of three who fled the children's fundamentalist Mormon father in B.C.

Teressa Blackmore, who recently testified against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, took the children to Idaho. She said she was trying to get them out of the clutches of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon community linked to Bountiful, B.C .

Her husband, Joseph Roy Blackmore, filed suit and claimed that the church issue was a red herring to justify wrongful conduct and sought to have the children returned to him.

But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Melnick found that the religious issue was not irrelevant.

The judge noted that if the kids were to be raised by the dad, they would be raised within the church and their mother, having left the church, would discourage such involvement.

He said it's beyond the scope of the application to deal with the "wider legal and society implications" of the religious issues.

Then he added: "Suffice it to say that, whatever Mr. Blackmore may argue about the FLDS Church being irrelevant to this application, it is an elephant in the corner of the room of this proceeding that inevitably casts a shadow over it."

The judge said he accepted the mother's evidence that her decision to leave the church would result in herself and her kids facing ostracism within the church community, which may have a negative impact on the children.

"Maximum contact with both parents is inconsistent with the best interests of the children in this case."

He ruled that the mother may continue to live in Payette, Idaho, with the children pending the outcome of a final custody ruling in the case.

In November, Jeffs was sentenced to 10 years to life in prison for forcing a 14-year-old to marry her first cousin.

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