Judge lets his custody order stand

The Daily Courier/September 5, 2003
By Jerry Stensland

Rutherfordton -- An attempt by Shana Muse and her lawyer Ed Hensley to vacate a temporary custody order regarding Muse's children was denied by Judge Robert Cilley Thursday.

Hensley had hoped to get that order off the table in advance of Friday's resumption of a Department of Social Services hearing regarding the same custody dispute, though a separate proceeding.

Thursday's motion was filed in the civil case brought by Muse. The case is an attempt to get her children back from Kent and Brooke Covington, members of the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale.

Muse, a former WOFF member, left her children with the Covingtons last September and later agreed to a temporary custody order approved by Cilley in December 2002.

Hensley argued that the visitation and facts of the arrangement had changed enough to warrant vacating the order.

Tom Hix, the Covingtons attorney, argued that a legal finding of facts was not necessary as the consent order was agreed to by both parties, therefore certain constitutional rights Muse would normally have as the mother are lost upon signing the agreement.

Judge Cilley agreed that the consent order could be revisited at a later point, but said the DSS hearing resuming Friday was the place to gather facts regarding the arrangement which could then be presented in the civil case.

That may be a moot point if Muse gets a favorable result in the DSS hearing. The DSS proceeding was brought against Muse claiming her children were abused.

In August, Judge Randy Pool ruled that Muse's children were abused and moved to the disposition phase of the DSS case. That phase began with Muse testifying. She will return to the stand Friday in the case. All of next week is blocked off for Pool to hear the case. The disposition phase will determine what is the best placement of the children.

Muse supports DSS taking temporary custody of the children because she wants her children removed from the WOFF environment. Kent Covington is a minister in the WOFF. Muse left her children with the couple when the children refused to leave with her last September fearing that leaving the church meant they would go to hell.

The Covingtons are not related to Muse, though two of Muse's sisters are WOFF members.

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