Leppert v. Leppert
North Dakota Supreme Court
519 N.W.2d 287 (1994)
Joel and Quinta Leppert married in 1984. Joel and Quinta had five children together. During Joel and Quinta’s marriage, they were followers of the same belief system. This belief system was led and created by Quinta’s father, Gordon Winrod. Winrod taught that only those who followed his church were obedient to God, and all other people were God’s enemies and evil. According to Winrod, it was okay for his followers to lie to, steal from, and be violent toward God’s enemies. Winrod’s followers lived and worked in a commune in Missouri. Joel stopped following Winrod, and Joel and Quinta separated. Joel continued to live in North Dakota, and Quinta moved to her father’s commune. In 1991, a court granted Joel temporary custody of all five children, but in 1992, another judge granted custody of the three youngest children to Quinta and split physical custody between Quinta and Joel for the two oldest children. The couple’s divorce trial occurred in 1993, and several witnesses testified. The children’s guardian ad litem, Dr. Robert Packard, testified that he recommended Joel have physical custody of all five children. Dr. Packard testified that Quinta’s beliefs were extremely dangerous to the children, both emotionally and physically. During the marriage, Quinta homeschooled her children. Evaluations showed that the children were significantly behind with academic skills as well as social skills. Joel testified that Quinta was attempting to poison the children against him, and recordings of her disparaging Joel were admitted. Home studies conducted showed that Quinta’s home as well as Joel’s home were physically safe for the five children. Following trial, the court awarded Quinta custody of the three youngest children, and Joel was awarded custody of the two oldest children. Joel appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Neumann, J.)
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