The Tennessee Court of Appeals awarded two children's custody to a former prostitute Monday, reversing a previous order by Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw.
The higher court ruled that Philyaw based his conclusion on the assumption that the mother was still a prostitute, despite evidence that she quit that line of work. According to the order, the mother earned her master's degree and became a social worker in Nevada.
The mother and father had two children together, living in Chattanooga until they broke up in November 2010. The mother left with the children to go to college in Ohio. She received primary custody, keeping their children for about two-thirds of the year.
In March 2013, however, the father filed in Hamilton County for primary custody. He said he learned his ex girlfriend was working at the Moonlight Bunny Ranch in Nevada.
The mother testified in Hamilton County that it was true: She had been a prostitute, but only because she was $33,000 behind on medical bills. Plus, she said, her ex-boyfriend was $10,000 behind on child support. And her debt was growing as she attended school. She said the children were never around her work as a prostitute.
She also testified in Hamilton County that she had quit the job. She earned her degree and had gotten a job as a social worker. She provided copies of her provisional license, earning statements and her diplomas to court.
Still, according to Monday's court order, Philyaw doubted her.
"Mother testified that she is now working full-time as a social worker in Nevada, although the Court does not find this testimony to be credible," he wrote. " The court finds that Mother lacked integrity on several issues, including her current employment."
The Court of Appeals judges wrote that the order against the mother was based on the fact that she had been a prostitute more than on any other evidence.
"At most, the other testimony at the trial only speculated on the possibility Mother might someday resume work as a prostitute to help resolve a hypothetical future financial crisis," Judge Charles Susano Jr. wrote. "This is speculation based on speculation based on speculation."
The Court of Appeals judges also pointed out that the children's father testified to snorting cocaine while the children were sleeping.