Single Mother Regains Joint Custody of Son

After years of limbo, Julie Gilmore is finally satisfied. The 22-year-old single mother has regained joint custody of her 5-year-old son.

After reviewing an evaluation of Gilmore's Chatsworth apartment, Ventura County Superior Court Commissioner John H. Pattie on Thursday granted Gilmore and the boy's father joint custody of their son, Dillon. The boy's primary residence will be with his mother.

His ruling capped a rare and contentious custody battle over the impishly handsome kindergartner born to young, unmarried parents.

More than two years ago, Pattie awarded custody of Dillon to his paternal grandparents instead of either Gilmore--who a psychologist said exhibited "exclusively manipulative and sociopathic" behavior--or Michael Murphy, the boy's father.

Gilmore, then 20, maintains that she really was stripped of primary custody because she was young and poor. In the intervening years, she attended American River College in Sacramento, became certified as a preschool teacher, got a steady job as a nanny in Simi Valley and obtained temporary custody of Dillon.

"I'm thrilled that this is finally over with," Gilmore said. "In the long run, the only one who suffered was my son."

Although Gilmore and her son live in the San Fernando Valley, Dillon attends school in Moorpark, where his mother works. His school is also close to his father and grandparents, who live in Simi Valley.

According to the commissioner's ruling, Dillon will stay with his 23-year-old father every other weekend and visit him two nights a week.

Murphy, who did not oppose Gilmore's request, said he was satisfied with the ruling: "All I ever wanted was 50-50 custody."

That was what grandfather Dennis Murphy, 51, wanted too.

"We have taken ourselves out of the picture," he said. "We were just concerned that our son maintain his rights of visitation. . . . We're very, very comfortable with the way things have been finalized."

All players agreed on this point: The ruling ensures that Dillon will be able to see all the family members who love him with a minimum of bouncing around.

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