In this second installment of our series, “High Profile Child Custody Battles,” we discuss the case of Bill Verst vs. Lindsay Jackson. Many fans of the reality television show: Toddlers &Tiaras are likely already intimately familiar with this story. However, for those of us who are not, some background information may be helpful……
In an episode of the television show Toddler & Tiaras, which features mothers and daughters who participate in beauty pageants designed for younger girls, Lindsay Jackson dressed her daughter Madisyn Verst in a Dolly Parton outfit. The outfit was complete with “enhancements” which altered the child’s physical appearance to better resemble Parton’s (you can view pictures of Madisyn’s outfit by visiting ABC News and Fox News.com).
After the show aired, there was backlash, as many online commentators and critics of the show expressed their outrage at Lindsay Jackson’s actions. In fact, shortly after the episode, People Magazine featured Madisyn Verst on its cover with a headline asking, “Gone Too Far?”
Well, apparently Bill Verst, Madisyn’s father believes that the episode did in fact go too far, and in response, he is now seeking primary custody of his daughter. During proceedings in a Kentucky courtroom, Bill Verst argued that Lindsay Jackson should lose custody of their daughter because of her sexual exploitation of their child on the popular television show. Court proceedings began in mid-August.
During one of the initial hearings, held in Campbell County, Kentucky on August 17-18, 2012, a court appointed psychologist sided with Bill Verst, opining that the Dolly Parton outfit that Madisyn was dressed in inappropriately sexualized the young girl. As a result, the psychologist recommended that the parents temporarily maintain a joint custody arrangement, with Bill Verst serving as the primary physical custodian. Also, the judge placed a gag order on the mom, and ordered that Madisyn discontinue participating in pageants until the case is resolved.
In response to the psychologist’s opinion and recommendation, Lindsay Jackson is reported to have stated that she would have never dressed Madisyn in the Dolly Parton outfit if she knew that it would lead to such outrage and the possibility of losing her daughter. Jackson is also reported to have said that the outfit was never meant to be negative or sexual.
The judge in this case surely has a difficult task, to determine whether the custody of little Madisyn should be modified from her mother who has been Madisyn’s primary custodian for years, to her father. Such a transition, especially for a six year old child, could be traumatizing. However, in light of all of the facts surrounding the situation, the Judge will look at the best interests of Madisyn to make the best decision.
By A. Latrese Martin, Law Clerk, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC