How Can This Ex-Quiverfull Woman Maintain Custody of Her Kids? May 21, 2009

How Can This Ex-Quiverfull Woman Maintain Custody of Her Kids?

A more serious question from a reader:

A friend I met online has recently left the Quiverfull movement. She has 9 children and is seriously doubting her faith. But she fears that her husband, privately manipulative but publicly charming, will win full custody because she is not “religious enough” anymore. Unfortunately upon searching through the atheist web presence, I found many examples to validate her fear, but no contact information for organizations which might be able to offer legal advice and/or help.

Do you know of any groups that might help?

I wonder if a regular lawyer who specializes in child custody cases might be able to do the trick. I don’t know of any atheist groups that do legal work like this, though…

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Chris Nowak

    Stuff like this is something we really really need. After reading the book “escape” with the
    Mormon woman who breaks away from her faith, I realized how incredibly difficult it is for people who are coming out of these situations. We spend a lot of time attacking things like the fundamentalist Mormons, or the recent atrocities of the catholic church in Ireland, but the reason these things still exist is that there are few resources for those who realize that they are in a bad situation and want to leave.

    Give people the resources to leave if they want to, give them a choice, and you cut out a great deal of power from underneath these fanatical religious leaders. Some people will still remain by choice, but at least it’s their free will.

    I think Atheist groups should definitely contribute to this effort. Taking a proactive stance against the worst that religion has to offer might cast us in a better light – when we’re up against the crazy fundamentalists it’s hard not to look good.

  • Thilina

    Unfortunately for here she doesn’t have much of a chance. Any chance she does have will be depending on the judge.

    My advise would be to get a child custody lawyer and try and keep religion out of it as much as possible.

    If she (and the lawyer) is brave enough she could always point out how damaging it would be for the kids to grow up in that religious environment but this all depends on how religious an area it is.

  • Brian Westley

    Eugene Volokh of the Volokh conspiracy at has written a number of times about discrimination against atheists in child custody (see e.g. He can be contacted through

    He might have some advice.

  • Richard Wade

    Michael Newdow is a lawyer. If he can’t do it, maybe he could recommend some resources for her.

  • Definitely keep religion out of it and stress that she is the one who has been taking care of the children. Judges don’t like to change the circumstances of kids too much unless there is a very good reason, so the fact that she has been the primary caregiver will be good for her favor. Also, I wouldn’t have a problem going to church for awhile for this reason. Yes, it’s wrong to need to hide who you are and it’s discriminatory, but I see it as caring more about my kids than making a statement. Any abuse he has put them through needs to be addressed as well, and there may be more there than she realizes. When you’re in the situation, you don’t always see it as abuse, but maybe talking to someone who has not been in the movement and can be more objective might help. I don’t even want to describe here what all my husband did, but I didn’t see it as abuse until a year after I left him. But DEFINITELY a family lawyer will be better than any source you can find online because the laws differ SO much from state to state, both in what is written and in what is actually practiced (i.e., my state has it written that they do not prefer the mother in custody cases, but in practice, they quite often do). A lawyer will know these nuances.

    I totally understand this hell. The custody situation with my daughter since leaving my minister husband has been a complete and total nightmare. I am worried about my own religious views in seeking custody for my own daughter, but I am technically a member of the Episcopalian church in town, so hopefully that will be enough.

    Sorry this is SO long! Just got out of my own battle and we are about to go at it again, so it is all still fresh in my mind. My contact address is on my blog, if you want to vent/ask any questions.

  • Miko

    When nine children are involved, I suspect that the financial ability to support them is going to be a much larger factor than religiosity.

  • Not an organization, but perhaps the two women who run the No Longer Quivering blog would be able to provide resources and advice.

  • Sandra

    Sorry this is so long.
    When she steps up in front of the judge the first thing to do is to request that religion be kept out of the hearing. (This is what I was advised to do as an atheist because my son’s father is a “Christian”.)

    She should see if this questionnaire would define her ‘religion’ as a ‘cult’. If so, and if it is unlikely that the judge in the case is a member of the Quiverfull Movement (QM) then she could use leaving to her advantage.
    If she has determined that the QM meets the criteria of a cult then she can contact the Cult Awareness and Information Center ( which can offer information from people who have successfully left a cult experience. They seem to be a Christian group, but hey, if she can get help then it’s worth a look.

  • Larry Huffman

    I will put forward that it will be harder for a woman coming out of a fundamentalist chrisitan group in this case than a mormon. While the mormon leaders and the mormon husband will fight…most other christian faiths would line up with the woman and not the mormons. To leave a fundamentalist group, however…especially if she hs indeed become atheist…will be trickier. I think the number of people (including judges and lawyers) will be fewer in her case than with someone leaving mormonism.

    But…how sad is it…and I saw this all of the time with mormons…that a person losing their faith (gaining a reasonable perspective) has to risk losiung or outright give up their own immediate family in order to do so.

    It says so much about religions…which try to act as though they are the family values portion of our society.

  • Good for your friend, I wish her luck. I believe that Freedom From Religion Foundation has a page dedicated to such matters. It is worth a looksie…and doesn’t Skepchick offer help also. I could be wrong about the last one. Good luck.


  • No Longer Quivering wrote a post about this very issue tonight.

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