Cancer survivors in New Jersey and around the country were shocked to learn of a high profile child custody case in which a judge considered a mother’s breast cancer as a significant factor in awarding custody to the children’s father. The judge told the mother that the children would benefit from more contact with “the non-ill parent” which sparked outrage across the country. Debate over the ruling erupted on the American Bar Association’s website and 100,000 people have signed an online petition against the judge’s ruling.
The mother’s breast cancer was one among many factors in this messy child custody battle that has sent both parents to jail for fighting. Both parents have also filed domestic violence protective orders against each other and there is evidence that they are so angry with each other that most child custody arrangements would be unworkable.
A regional director for the Cancer Legal Resource Center called the ruling “a slippery slope” and questioned whether other illnesses like diabetes could be used against parents in the future. Similar concerns were voiced by a cancer survivor who runs a cancer support group.
“People in our community had a strong reaction to the case and used social media to spread the word because we can all imagine, ‘What if a judge used our diagnosis against us?'” she said.
The father would not comment on the case but his attorney said that the case was not about breast cancer or divorce, but child custody. Indeed the couple is not even divorced because the husband’s job provides health benefits for his wife’s costly cancer treatment.
Source: The Chicago Tribune, “Woman’s cancer a factor in complex custody case,” Julie Deardorff, 6/4/11