North Carolina Courts Use Breast Cancer to take Kids Away from Their Mom
There are little things that upset me more than seeing kids caught in the middle of their parents’ differences. So imagine my irritation, frustration and outrage when I read that a North Carolina Mom who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer has lost her children in a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband.
Where oh where do I begin with this? There are at least a million things wrong with this.
It turns out that Alaina Giordano has been fighting for custody of her kids for quite some time. When her divorce became final, her ex-husband, claiming that he couldn’t find any work in North Carolina where they lived, took off for Chicago, Illinois and set up camp there where he did find eventually find a job. When the couple filed for divorce in 2010, Alaina was three years into her fight with breast cancer. He knew she was ill, even then.
However, he left behind his ex-wife, Alaina and their two children. I mean there’s nothing wrong with that, parents move out of the area all the time after a divorce, visitation is usually set up and that’s that.
But that wasn’t good enough for Kane Snyder (Alaina’s ex-husband). No, he wanted his children and rather than go on his own merits to get them he decided to use his wife’s cancer diagnosis to get them, citing that her breast cancer diagnosis and lack of a job made her unfit. (She’s a freelance writer working from home, like yours truly.)
Let’s say that out loud again for anyone that missed it: She has cancer. So that makes her an unfit mother.
That sounds crazy right (and discriminatory no)? I mean there are people who live with an illness or disease EVERY DAY and they parent their children just. Fine.
Well, what’s crazier is that he got a North Carolina judge, the honorable Family Court Judge Nancy Gordon, whom herself has no children nor has ever been married, to agree that Alaina was unfit. Judge Gordon cited that the fact that it was basically (in layman’s terms) because it was unknown when Alaina would die, that the children were better off in their father’s care. Another issue that factored into the ruling was Alaina’s current unemployment status. The judge also cited that:
"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." by forensic psychiatrist Helen Brantley.
I’m so glad that Ms. Brantley has a definition of normal because clearly anyone who is ill is not fit to parent and having an ill parent is NOT the norm.
There is no such thing as normal. We define normal day in and day out. What might be normal for one person may not be normal for another. Children get raised by grandparents, single parents, parents and their extended family, and gay parents. Just because illness doesn’t fit into a cookie cutter ideal of normal doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or that children should be hidden from it.
I’m trying not to see things totally from the Alaina’s point of view though I admit; I’m hard pressed not to and here’s why:
Pretend for a minute that my husband and I divorce for whatever reason (don’t get any ideas Mr. if you’re reading this)… and he decides that my pacemaker could stop working at any time and I likely wouldn’t know it (it’s happened). He could decide that based on that fact alone, the kids could be given to him to live with because having a pacemaker, having a congenital heart defect makes me unfit. I don’t know about everyone else who lives with an illness or a condition but my kids are my reason for fighting and staying healthy; you take them away from me and you take away the will to fight. For me it’s an instinct to fight because I’m not fighting for just me; I’m fighting for the kids too.
Have the courts taken away Alaina’s will to fight? I certainly hope not. I hope this drives her to fight harder and stronger than she ever has before.
This court loss for Alaina could set the precedent across America that any person with an illness, disease, or “condition” is unfit to parent on their own because something could happen to them. They could die and (shocker!!!) no one knows when! And because we’re a nation afraid of the unknown, it only makes sense to assume that we have to avoid the unknown as much as possible.
I don’t know when I’ll die. Do you know when you’ll die? I can’t see the future and neither can Judge Gordon and apparently because she’s not God, that doesn’t sit well with her so she’s decided to take away the children’s primary caregiver and move them 600 miles away. And oh yea, if Alaina wants to see them and have 50/50 parenting with them, the judge recommended that she could just, you know, move. Because it’s not like she doesn’t have doctors or treatment or anything in North Carolina and of course she's not working so she has nothing else going on and probably has the money to up and move 600 to 800 miles away.
Did the judge even think this through?
No, I really am trying to see this from the children’s viewpoint because as a kid, I was in the middle of a messy divorce and custody battle and my parents were perfectly healthy!
No one wins in this, especially the children. They stand to lose the most. Their mom is sick. If I were them I would want to be there with her as much as I could because as the judge so ironically pointed out, no one knows what the final outcome of Alaina’s cancer will be. In an 11 year old mind (the age of Alaina’s oldest) I would be bitter and angry towards my father for taking me away from my mom. I would also be worrying about my mother and wishing I was with her. I would resent him for many years to come because it’s very possible that he could be taking me away from the last years I have left with my mom and there is so much that she and I would miss out on. So many memories to be made.
It makes me cry for these kids. The judge, the psychiatrist and even their own dad can’t see the big picture in front of them and that’s that they are essentially tearing a family apart. Mom may be sick but she’s functioning, she’s doing well and from the news reports that I’ve watched, she has a good support system. Dad on the other hand admittedly has no kind of support system in Chicago.
There could have been a better outcome to this, I’m just thinking that there has to be a better solution than the one the judge handed down.
I think sometimes in our haste to do what we want, and get what we want (in this case it’s children), we don’t stop to think about the causalities we’re creating along the way or the long term damage that our short sited view point may cause.
I honestly support father's rights (spoken as someone who lived with their father post-divorce) and it really matters little to me whether it was a father or mother who was taking their child away from their ill parent - I'd still say that the parent who uses cancer or any other illness as a crutch to remove a child from a loving home, is a heartless person and that Karma can be a mean, mean lady.
My sincerest hope is that Alaina Giordano gets this ruling over turned at some point, that she beats Stage 4 Breast Cancer and gets her children back. I hope that her story goes all the way to the state, not just for her, but for her children and the millions of other children who could one day be another casualty of this short sited, horrendous, court ruling.
**As of August 17th, 2011 the children, Sophia and Bud, were scheduled to leave with their father for Chicago. According to the Facebook page that friends and family have set up in support of Alaina Giordano, there was a scene at the airport caused by the children's father. There is also a petition on change.org to support Alaina's cause.
How do you feel about this ruling? Was the judge fair? What would you do if it was you going through this?