Domestic Relations: Choosing Parents in Iowa

"The primary consideration is the best interest of the child," declared the Iowa Supreme Court in the case of Mark Painter, 7. "It is not our prerogative to determine custody upon our choice of one of two ways of life." Then, seizing the prerogative it said it did not have, the court took Mark away from his "bohemian" father, Writer-Photographer Harold W. Painter, 34, and gave him to his "conventional" maternal grandparents, Dwight and Margaret Bannister, both 60. Rarely has a custody decision hiked legal eyebrows higher across the country.

Father Y. Father. Bohemian Harold Painter is, in fact, a...