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Mother seeks sole custody of Wooten children

County Commission Chairman Josh Wooten's former wife, citing concern about the well-being of their two children, has asked a judge to change custody arrangements.

Wooten's current wife, Kimberly, was present in Floral City last month when sheriff's deputies arrested a man on charges of possessing methamphetamine, an illegal drug. Kimberly Wooten, 29, was advised of her rights and questioned but was not arrested, court records showed.

When asked about the incident, Josh Wooten, 41, told the St. Petersburg Times that he is helping his wife fight a prescription drug addiction.

The current custody arrangement calls for the children, ages 10 and 11, to live with Josh Wooten half the time and their mother, Theresa Wooten, half the time.

According to Theresa Wooten, 36, that arrangement isn't appropriate now. In court papers filed Jan. 16, she requested that the children remain solely in her care until safeguards were put in place to ensure the girls are not left alone with Kimberly Wooten.

On Friday, Josh Wooten said his attorney, Denise Lyn, had advised him not to discuss the personal issue.

On Jan. 15, his lawyer filed an emergency motion asking a judge to continue enforcing the split-custody agreement.

The Wootens divorced in June 1995. Since November 2001, Josh and Theresa Wooten have shared custody of their daughters, rotating them between their homes for weeklong stays.

According to Josh Wooten, his former wife was supposed to bring the children to his home Jan. 10. Instead, Theresa Wooten phoned him to say she would not allow them to return there.

The commissioner has not seen his daughters since Jan. 3 and fears they will be harmed by this disruption to their schedules, court records showed. Josh Wooten asked the court to order his former wife to abide by their custody agreement.

"Theresa Wooten is willfully violating an existing court order requiring the children to rotate parenting time weekly," Lyn said Friday.

But Theresa Wooten is arguing that only she can provide a stable environment for their daughters right now.

She has asked to be given primary residential custody of the girls, with visits to Josh Wooten's home granted only with the restriction that the children not be left alone with Kim Wooten.

In court records, she cited Kim Wooten's presence at the Dec. 7 arrest of an acquaintance, Lonnie Thomas Arnold, 38, of Floral City. Law officers accused Arnold of possessing 6.1 grams of methamphetamine .

Josh Wooten was attending a political convention in Orlando at the time of the arrest.

Kimberly Wooten has told Theresa Wooten she feels her life is in danger because Arnold and "other criminals" know where she lives, according to Theresa Wooten's petition to the court.

The commissioner's former wife also mentioned the visit police made to Kimberly and Josh Wooten's house in 2001 following a hysterical 911 call made by Kimberly.

Theresa Wooten framed the incident as an act of domestic violence in front of the children; at the time, the Wootens described the incident as an intense shouting match but not physically violent.

Gena Buckingham Toner, who is representing Theresa Wooten, said her client had obvious reasons to be concerned.

Theresa Wooten is seeking an immediate mediation. As of Friday, no hearings had been set. Citrus County judges have asked for the case to be assigned to a judge outside the county.

_ Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 860-7303 or cjenkinssptimes.com.

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