The judge hearing the case of a polygamist family seeking to adopt six children has ordered a psychological evaluation of the couple and the children.

The children, from 5 to 19 years old, have been living with the polygamist family in Hildale, Washington County, since their mother, Brenda Johanson Thornton, died of cancer last year.Thornton had left the children's natural father and became a wife of Vaughan Fischer. When she died, Fischer and another wife, Sharane Fischer, were granted temporary custody. Fischer also has another wife, Katrina Stubbs.

The adoption is being opposed by Thorton's half sisters, Patricia L. Johanson, Washington, D.C., and Janet E. Johanson, Salem, Ore., and father, Calvin Johanson, also of Salem.

The psychological evaluations of the Fischers and the children were ordered at a pretrial hearing Thursday.

Steven Snow, attorney for the Fischers, argued that there are factors other than polygamy that the court should consider in deciding the case.

Timothy Anderson, attorney for the relatives, said, "We have reason to think that it's a very sophisticated, excessive and oppressive cult situation.

"If the children have an option to leave, then those children should have that opportunity," he said.

The case, which is being heard by 5th District Judge J. Philip Eves, is expected to go to trial in January.