Countywide : Court Lets Ruling Stand in Parents' Custody Dispute

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday let stand an appeal court's ruling that said a Ventura County judge could not settle a custody dispute by forcing the mother to move closer to the father.

The court refused to review a ruling issued in July by the 2nd District Court of Appeal. The appeal court found that Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath exceeded his authority when he forced Pamela Besser Theroux to move from San Francisco to Ventura County so her son, Joshua, would not have to commute between his parents' homes.

Theroux and Joshua's father, Michael Fingert, lived in Ventura when they were divorced in 1981. She was awarded 75% custody, which eventually meant that Joshua spent three weeks with his mother followed by one week with his father. Fingert lives in Moorpark, Theroux eventually settled in San Francisco and Joshua flew back and forth.

In September, 1988, McGrath decided that having both parents in the same area would reduce the psychological stress on Joshua, who was attending two schools and spending one week with his father for every three weeks with his mother.

The appeal court ruled in July, however, that McGrath's order violated the mother's right to travel, guaranteed by the California and U.S. constitutions.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jon Davidson said he did not expect an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Neither Fingert nor his attorney, Richard L. Taylor, could be reached Wednesday for comment.

Theroux said she still wants to return to Northern California but the timing is uncertain. Her ex-husband has asked Ventura County Superior Court for 50% or full custody, Davidson said. The court will hear that case in late October.

"Until we work out a schedule that works out best for Josh, we're just going to stay put," Theroux said.

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