Gay Montana father sues for visitation rights

BY Advocate.com Editors

June 14 2003 12:00 AM ET

A 33-year-old gay man has filed suit in a Montana district court to force his ex-wife to abide by a court order giving him visitation with his two children. Jeremy Stockstad of Bozeman contends that he is being denied visitation with his 6-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter because of his sexual orientation. Stockstad said he has not seen his children in nearly six months. "I'm only fighting for my kids," he said. "I only want my kids to have time for me." His former wife, Oralee Kohler, moved to Utah when the couple separated after seven years of marriage. She refused to comment on the suit, filed on Thursday, when contacted by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

The case appears to be similar to one awaiting review by the Idaho supreme court. An Idaho Falls man is challenging a court ruling that denies him visitation with his two daughters as long as he continues to live with his male partner. That case is in the early stages of the appeal process.

Stockstad said he tried to deal with his same-sex attraction for years with help from counselors and peer groups but was unsuccessful, after which the couple separated. "It pretty much just came to the point where I couldn't really function under the premise that I was a married straight person," he said. A custody agreement guaranteed Stockstad the right to see his children every other weekend after Kohler moved to Utah, according to court papers.

Stockstad visited at least once a month until last December, when he traveled to Utah with his partner for his daughter's music recital, he said. Kohler said she would not let the children see him with another man. Such a condition is unacceptable, Stockstad said, if he wants to have a meaningful relationship with his children. "I want to provide as complete a family life as I possibly can," he added.

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