Divorced mom loses custody of kids due to cancer diagnosis

7 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Should not knowing how long a divorced mom with cancer will live be grounds for losing custody of her kids? 

The truth is NO ONE ever knows how long they will live, but evidently North Carolina family court judge Nancy Gordon believes that stage four breast cancer makes Alaina Giordano's health status so unpredictable that her cancer diagnosis is grounds for removing kids from her home.

Alaina Giordano

In a bitter custody battle, the judge recently denied Alaina primary custody of her children. The custody ruling says the deteriorating condition of Alaina's health and the fact this stay-at-home mom is unemployed is grounds for removing the kids from their home in Durham, North Carolina, and placing them in the custody of their dad Kane Snyder in Chicago as of June 17th.

Alaina, a 37-year-old mom of two kids ages 11 and 5, appears to live a fairly normal life even with her cancer. She has a team of doctors she trusts at the prestigious Duke Cancer Institute near her home in Durham, N.C. She goes for cancer treatment only once a month. She does not want to relocate and be forced to uproot her children from their home and school and also be forced to leave the doctors she trusts. Her estranged husband moved after the divorce and now lives in Chicago where he works as a leadership associate at Sears.

The judge apparently expanded the definition of what an unfit parent means and decided Alaina's poor health was grounds for losing custody of her kids. 

Why would a judge make this ruling?  According to ABC News, in Judge Gordon's ruling she cited 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."

Chicago and Durham are about 600 miles apart. If Alaina wants to regularly see her kids, then she must move. Since Alaina is the unemployed parent, it appears the custody ruling puts the burden on her to move to be in the city where her employed husband lives.

In effect, this opinion seems to say that the judge believes Alaina's husband's job at Sears is more important than Alaina's health.

Divorce is tough on families. Add the health concerns of a parent and divorce is even more devastating. Alaina was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer three and half years ago at age 33. A little over a year ago, in January 2010, the couple filed for divorce. When her ex could not find work in Durham, he moved to Chicago. The bitter legal battle for custody of the kids that ensued after the divorce includes allegations of domestic problems according to The Daily Mail Online.

In a perfect world, the custody rights will be determined so the decision will benefit the kids involved. Should a cancer diagnosis make someone an unfit parent? 

Sadly, any of us could die at any moment–cancer diagnosis or no cancer diagnosis. Cancer is not contagious. Yes, living with cancer is a tough battle. And yet many health experts agree that families help cancer patients live and thrive because of a family's love and support.

Alaina and her friends have set up several ways concerned moms (and dads) can petition the custody ruling:

 

Moving the kids 600 miles away from their mom, does not appear to help their mom battle her cancer. And because this is a blog and not a news article, I can offer my opinion here:

This unusual custody ruling that makes Alaina's cancer grounds for being an unfit parent will greatly increase the likelihood that her cancer battle will end even sooner. How will the dad ever explain that to his kids? 

Not knowing how long Alaina will live as the reason for losing custody of her kids is a sickening precedent to set.

 

For more information:

 Photo above: Alaina Giordano on Facebook

 

~ Chris Olson
Writer and illustrator

Momathon Blog: the 24/7 mommy marathon–on two feet or four wheels

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