Should Cancer Affect Child Custody?
Put yourself in this situation: you’re diagnosed with stage four breast cancer – but not only that, after a devastating divorce, a judge has ruled your kids will be taken away from you and custody awarded to your ex-husband.
It’s hard to even fathom, but it’s actually happening to one mother.
Now, along with the battle for her life, Alaina Giordano, is now battling the courts for custody of her children.
Soon after a terminal breast cancer diagnosis, Giordano’s marriage to her kids’ father fell apart, and a judge ruled that the 37-year-old mother from Durham, North Carolina must give up custody of both her children — Sofia, 11, and Bud, 5 — to her estranged husband who lives in Chicago.
Why? Because of the “deteriorating condition” of her health, despite the fact that her cancer is currently stable and not progressing.
This is what Giordano told ABC News:
Anybody who knows me knows my children are my life. They are what give me strength and part of the reason I’m doing so well.
Giordano’s unemployment was also cited as a factor in the April 25th District Court ruling that her two children must move from their home in Durham, N.C., to live primarily with their father, Kane Snyder in Chicago as of June 17.
“It makes no sense to take them away from me because you don’t know how long I’m going to live,” Giordano says. “Everybody dies and none of us knows when. Some of us have a diagnosis of cancer, or diabetes, or asthma. This is a particularly dangerous ruling to base a custody case on a diagnosis.”
The ruling notes that Giordano is currently an unemployed freelance writer and editor; however, that part is not so hard to believe. WHAT IS difficult to believe is the judge’s ruling.
Obviously, as in most child custody cases, it’s a complicated judicial process.
In her ruling, Judge Nancy Gordon cites forensic psychologist Dr. Helen Brantley: “The more contact [the children] have with the non-ill parent, the better they do. They divide their world into the cancer world and a free of cancer world. Children want a normal childhood, and it is not normal with an ill parent.”
Don’t we all want a cancer free world?
“Cancer is not leprosy…young children want to be with their parents, even if ill,” says Holly Prigerson, director of Center for Psycho-oncology & Palliative Care Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “That’s not to say that seeing a parent so ill will not be upsetting for children — it will be frightening — but not seeing a mother and not receiving honest answers about why mommy is not there may be more detrimental to the child’s mental health and functioning than the reverse,” she adds.
Legally, making custody decisions based on this concept of “protecting” children from an ill parent troubles some.
[T]he fact that a parent is seriously impaired or likely to die in the imminent future is the kind of thing a judge could legitimately take into account in the analysis,” says Glenn Cohen, co-director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard University.
“By contrast, it seems unusual to me and I would worry that it is potentially discriminatory for a court to say that the mere fact that an otherwise healthy parent at no imminent risk of death or serious impairment has been diagnosed with cancer should be per se exclude them from custody,” he adds.
Giordano hopes to appeal the court’s ruling so that she and her children can stay in North Carolina.
Clearly, we don’t know the details in this case, nor the state of the home life prior to the divorce and bitter custody fight. Considering what’s right for the kids and their well being is paramount in any custody case, but revoking child custody based on a cancer diagnosis? That part is beyond the scope of what’s seems best for those kids. Tell me what you think.
Check out the story here:
What’s your opinion on this custody case? Speak up! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Image courtesy of ABC News