Chandler v. Barker Decided

June 29, 2010

An appeal of the imposition of a "paramour" restriction on the custody rights of a mother in a lesbian relationship in Tennessee.

Since their divorce more than 10 years ago, Angel Chandler and Joseph Barker have shared custody of their two children. During this time, they both entered into new relationships. Chandler has been in a relationship with her same-sex partner for close to a decade. Barker remarried approximately 5 years ago.

The custody arrangement of the two children, a daughter 13, and a son, 15, worked out relatively well until the couple appeared before a trial court in Gibson County, Tennessee, to modify their parenting plan. Psychological evaluations at that time concluded that Chandler’s partner was a positive influence on the children and, in fact, recommended that the daughter live with Chandler rather than the child’s father. Nevertheless, on May 15, 2008, the court imposed a so-called “paramour” restriction on the couple, forcing Chandler’s partner from their home any nights that Chandler has custody.

This restriction has both caused a huge strain on Chandler’s relationship and harmed her children. Chandler and her partner live in North Carolina in a duplex that initially allowed them to abide by the order. But the duplex arrangement that permitted visitation is no longer possible because the couple now needs rental income from the second unit. For almost a year the paramour restriction has hurt Chandler’s children, who have been unable to visit their mother. This situation has been particularly harmful for Chandler’s daughter, who looked to Chandler’s partner for advice and guidance. Chandler appealed the trial court’s paramour restriction order and won a unanimous judgment from the Tennessee Court of Appeal reversing and remanding the case to the trial court.

VICTORY! The Court of Appeals unanimously held that the trial court had abused its discretion in imposing the "paramour" restriction.  In reversing the trial court's decision, the Court noted that there was absolutely no evidence that the "paramour" restriction served the best interests of the children.

Further, the Court cited with approval the opinion of the court-appointed psychologist that, "research indicates that children raised in homes with same sex parents/parent surrogates tend to develop normal social relationships, and are no more likely to display same sex sexual orientation than children raised in more traditional two parent homes."

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