A 29-year-old Fraser Valley woman who says she makes $10,000 a month by operating a massage parlor and pornographic Web site has won custody of her six-year-old son, despite concerns raised by her ex-husband about her sex-trade lifestyle.
"The question is, should these activities bar her from continuing as the custodial parent?" B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Drost said this week in a written decision. At a trial held in Chilliwack, the ex-husband maintained the lifestyle of his ex-wife, a former escort agency prostitute, creates an "inappropriate" situation in which to raise a child. He maintained she was emotionally unstable, suicidal and an unfit person to have custody of their son.
When the parties separated, the mother was working as a part-time deckhand on the Albion ferry, but later began working in a massage parlour, where she earned $1,700 the first day.
Although she has not filed income tax returns for several years, she told the court she makes $10,000 a month as the part owner a massage parlour called the Mermaid Club. She admitted to performing sex acts for money, but not sexual intercourse.
She is also the owner/operator of an adult Web site that posts nude photographs of her.
The judge noted the woman claimed her ex-husband was violent, which was denied by the former husband, whom the judge found was the more credible witness. The woman claimed her ex-husband had tried to run her over while she was on her motorcycle, which the judge decided was exaggerated and untrue.
One custody -and-access report tendered in court recommended the ex-husband should get sole custody of his youngest son and both parents should share guardianship.
The report was by a Ms. Fenton, who had dealt with previous custody disputes where one of the parents is in the sex trade.
Fenton testified it was not the mother's involvement in the sex trade that led to her recommendation, but the effect that has, or might have, on the child. She concluded that the boy "has been exposed to the business environment ... because some of the persons who have cared for [him] were also involved in the sex trade." Also, she was concerned with the fact that the mother openly advertises her involvement in the sex trade.
The other report, by a Dr. Elterman, recommended the mother get custody of the child during the week and the father have custody on weekends. The report found the child had a stronger attachment to his mother.
The judge also took into account the testimony of the child's grandmother, who took custody of the couple's older child, a boy now eight years old, when they separated. The mother said she deplores what her daughter does for a living, but insisted she is a good mother. The grandmother also noted her daughter's new husband -- a former Russian navy officer and bouncer -- is very good with both boys, who think the world of him.
The new husband testified he was not "crazy" about his wife's work, but he acknowledged he took some of the "explicit" photographs of his wife that are displayed on her Web site.
He also admitted that some of the photos were taken in their home, but he insisted this happened only when the children were away.
In awarding custody to the mother, the judge said, "I do not want this to be taken as signifying my approval of what [she] does for a living. Far from it. During the trial she said she would give up the massage parlour and web site businesses if she had to do that in order to keep [her son]. I urge her to do that anyway."
The judge noted the woman's sons think their mother works in a doctor's office. "I expect that as they get older, the likelihood that they will learn what she really does, and be adversely affected by that knowledge, greatly increases."
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