Polygamist Custody Dispute

12 News/June 4, 2002

A judge has given a polygamist man visitation rights to his children, with this caveat: He can't have sex with his second wife when the children he fathered with his third wife are in the home.

Monday's temporary ruling came during a custody dispute between Rodney Holm and his former wife, Ruth Stubbs of Phoenix. Stubbs and Holm were never legally married, but she became his third wife in a spiritual ceremony.

Holm, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be able to bring his children to his Hildale home for visits on a temporary basis, 5th District Judge James L. Shumate ruled.

Stubbs will keep custody of her two children in Phoenix.

Shumate stipulated that Holm is banned from having sex with his second wife while his children with Stubbs are visiting. He may have relations with his first wife, to whom he is legally married, the judge said.

The couple has two young children together, and Stubbs is eight months pregnant. Stubbs left the marriage and the FLDS church in December, taking the children with her.

Holm wants the children to be raised in the Hildale area and with FLDS values. Stubbs wants the children to be raised outside of the FLDS religious community.

The FLDS church is based in the twin border cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Most of the towns' residents are members of the faith and practice polygamy.

Holm's attorney, Rodney Parker, argued that religious affiliation is not important in deciding whether Holm or Stubbs would make a better full-time parent to their children -- ages 1 and 2.

"Parents have a right to raise their children in their belief system," Parker said.

But Stubbs' attorney, Bill Walker, argued that religious teachings do matter in terms of custody in this case because of the behavior the children may witness. Polygamy is sanctioned by the FLDS religion.

Stubbs said she was advised by Rulon Jeffs, regarded as a prophet by followers of the FLDS faith, to marry Holm when she was 16 years old. Holm was 32 at the time of their spiritual marriage. He had two wives already.

Holm, a sworn police officer in both Utah and Arizona, reportedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights when asked about having sexual relations with the woman when she was a teen-ager.

The custody case has not been set for trial. No criminal charges have been filed against Holm.

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