The Salt Lake Tribune - Utah December 18, 2010
Judge allows children to visit father in polygamous community
By Lindsay Whitehurst
A judge has reversed a custody order barring a Juab County man from talking to his children about his religious belief in plural marriage and taking his children to the largely polygamous community he lives in.
“The court received no evidence that any of the petitioner’s children, adult or minor, have suffered real harm or will suffer substantiated potential harm as a result of his belief in the practice, even though the practice is criminal,” 4th District Judge James Brady wrote in a Wednesday decision.
Joseph Compton’s wife filed for divorce last year after he refused to stop seeing a woman interested in becoming his second wife and refused to renounce his belief in polygamy. Joseph Compton, 50, has not entered into a polygamous relationship since, according to court documents.
“To restrict parent time based on illegal conduct may be appropriate, but the illegality [of polygamy] on its own is not sufficient to warrant restriction,” Brady wrote. His decision gives Kathleen Compton custody of their four minor children but allows their father unrestricted visitation.
The decision reverses an October 2009 temporary custody order issued by 4th District Judge Donald J. Eyre, who said exposure to polygamy would entail “unnecessary and harmful conflict” with the children’s monogamous upbringing. The couple have eight children: four adults and four minors, whose ages range from 6 to 17.
Kathleen Compton, 47, testified in a November court hearing she is worried her children might become polygamists one day if they talk to their father about the practice and spend time in the approximately 800-member community, where the majority of people belong to the Apostolic United Brethren, also known as the Allred Group.
“I am not afraid he is going to hurt them physically. I’m afraid they’re going to join the group or marry someone in the group,” Kathleen Compton said. “As their mother I will do anything to protect them.”
Kathleen Compton and her attorney could not be reached for comment on this week’s decision.
When the Comptons married in 1983, Joseph Compton was a mainstream member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But about seven years later, around the time they had their fourth child, Joseph Compton began studying the beliefs of the early or “fundamental” LDS church, which include polygamy, according to court documents. The mainstream LDS Church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
In the early 1990s, the family moved to Missouri, after his brother, an AUB member, offered him a job, according to court documents. In the subsequent years, other women told Kathleen they were interested in becoming plural wives to Joseph, but she refused, according to court documents. In 2007, the family moved into a house in Mona, across a highway from Rocky Ridge.
After they separated, Kathleen got an apartment in Pleasant Grove and Joseph moved into a room in a house in Rocky Ridge, where two couples also have residences. Since Eyre’s ruling more than a year ago, Joseph Compton has visited with his children at her apartment.
“I love my kids and it is my sincere belief they wish to spend more time with me,” he said. “I feel very grateful, very relieved.”
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