No kiddin': Family values candidate lost custody of children
Could one of the top "family values" candidates have a big family problem? Documents reviewed by the Hook suggest that Feda Kidd Morton, a Republican seeking the nomination to run for U.S. Congress in the 5th District, lost custody of her four minor children in 2004 over her alleged "anger and bitterness." Morton has moved to block the custody story, having allegedly secured a temporary injunction stopping anyone from publishing such documents.
"The Fluvanna Circuit Court Judge entered a temporary injunction Friday afternoon [May 14], enjoining and prohibiting [the candidate's ex-husband] and others from possessing, disseminating, and/or publishing any and all information, documents, and/or transcripts arising from the proceedings in the juvenile court which you are now in possession of," Morton's campaign manager, Aaron Evans, wrote in an email to the Hook one day after a reporter interviewed Morton.
The Hook has seen a copy of a transcript of the 2004 child custody hearing in which a judge, expressing concern about their well-being, placed the four children in their father's custody.
Campaign manager Evans advised the Hook not to publish anything about the matter until a full hearing in Fluvanna Circuit Court. "To do otherwise may be at your own peril," he warned.
"I'm not going to acknowledge that anything was filed, and I'm certainly not going to make copies," said Fluvanna Circuit Court clerk Bouson E. Peterson Jr. when the Hook requested a copy of the alleged injunction. Nor would Peterson confirm that an injunction hearing took place May 14.
"I said I'm not going to comment," he reiterated. A "B.E. Peterson" of Fluvanna is listed as endorsing Morton on her website.
Morton, a Fluvanna High School teacher, won a May 1 straw poll at the 5th District convention and is one of seven candidates in the June 8 Republican primary vying to challenge Democratic incumbent Congressman Tom Perriello in November.
Morton describes herself as a "traditional family values" candidate who opposes abortion and gay marriage. She's received endorsements from social conservatives such as Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum, and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer.
In 2004, Morton took her ex-husband to court for more child support and full custody, says the ex, Dennis Kidd.
"The judge granted me custody," he says. "I didn't ask for any of that. The judge recognized the driving force in her life was her anger."
Kidd says he has heard nothing about a temporary injunction, nor was he ever aware that the Juvenile and Domestic Court records might be sealed.
In a transcript Kidd had made of the November 17, 2004, proceeding, Judge Dwight Johnson said, "[I]t makes it clear to the Court that Mrs. Kidd has allowed her anger to be the most controlling factor in her life and to overshadow her concerns for the well-being of her children, which is damaging."
Continued Johnson: "In this controlled environment in a courtroom where her rage is barely controlled, one would imagine what it would be like outside the courtroom."
According to the transcript, Johnson said, "And I can't see that she wants the children to have a good relationship with [their stepmother] when she refers to her as a whore and a slut in front of them. That is just not acceptable. I think it's damaging." He ordered sole custody to the father and visitation at Dennis Kidd's discretion.
Johnson is no stranger to controversial rulings, having once sentenced a couple to eight years in jail for buying booze for underage teens.
Morton appealed the decision, and she and Kidd subsequently agreed to joint custody of her youngest child, with his primary residence with her. Three older boys remained with Kidd, with liberal visitation for their mother, says campaign manager Evans.
When asked about the court order giving custody of her children to their father, Morton says, "The older boys chose to go live with their father."
"It's a farce she's claiming to be this Christian conservative woman with family values," says Dennis Kidd. "She's not what she's trying to portray. I just think people need to know who they're voting for. It just sickens me."
Last week, Lynchburg Tea Party blogger Kurt Feigel published a story about Morton's three marriages titled "Family Values and Campaign Hypocrisy."
"Life isn't perfect," says Morton. "I would have preferred to not have had three marriages." She calls the dissolution of her 20-year marriage to Kidd "tragic," but says she's moved on. "I picked myself up, and I don't feel like I'm hypocritical that I stand up for traditional family values."
Dennis Kidd describes the alleged temporary injunction as "a cover-up." Says the candidate's former spouse, "They're trying to pull something slick."
Update: The evening of May 17, Kidd did receive a copy of a temporary injunction signed by Judge John Berry at 1:28pm earlier that day.
The judge denied Morton's petition to prohibit media organizations from publishing the custody documents (because those records were not under seal) but did temporarily enjoin Kidd from releasing any documents related to former or currently pending cases in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court until a May 21 hearing. Candidate Morton was required to post a $1,000 bond in case the injunction is dissolved.
–updated at 3:30pm May 18 with information that the temporary injunction was partially denied and partially granted