Originally published on Advocate.com January 22 2004 12:00 AM ET
A Douglas County, Neb., district judge has awarded two lesbian mothers joint custody of an 8-year-old boy. Judge Joseph Troia issued a ruling late last week in the three-year custody case between Serenna Russell of Omaha and Joan Bridgens, who lives near Detroit. Their 8-year-old son will live mainly with Russell. Bridgens will pay child support. The case has drawn the attention of local gay rights activists, who have said it demonstrates the need for courts to oversee any child's welfare, regardless of the parents' sexual orientation. Russell and Bridgens were in a long-term relationship in 1997 when they jointly adopted the boy in Pennsylvania. Bridgens initially adopted the boy as an infant in 1996.
Troia's ruling pleased Russell, even though she had sought sole custody, her attorney told the Omaha World-Herald. "We're thrilled," attorney Susan Ann Koenig said on Tuesday. "I know that my client is looking forward to putting this litigation behind her and to both parents working together toward what's best for the child," Russell said.
The custody case had brought out a litany of accusations and bitterness between the women. Troia noted in his ruling that Bridgens's effort to undermine the child's relationship with Russell was "of great concern to the court." He also indicated that the child has performed better in school since moving
to Omaha in late 2002, under court order, to live with Russell while the case was resolved. The child had lived with Bridgens in Michigan for the previous 14 months.