Is Having Breast Cancer Grounds To Lose Custody of Kids?


What started as a court battle in North Carolina may well end up being a shout heard around the world. Alaina Giordano, a mother of two children, has been ordered to give up custody of her kids to her estranged husband, who lives in Chicago. The reason? Because Giordano has stage 4 breast cancer, and “children who have a parent with cancer need more contact with the non-ill parent,” according to the court.

Breast cancer is being used as a weapon

It appears that Alaina Giordano’s husband has been allowed to use his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis as a weapon against her, and so far it has been effective. The long arm of that weapon was wielded by Judge Nancy Gordon, who ordered that Alaina’s two children, Sofia, who is 11, and Bud, who is 5, must relocate from Durham, NC, to Chicago by June 17.

The decision has sparked a barrage of Internet activity, with women—and men—expressing their display, outrage, and disbelief that Gordon has made such a ruling. According to Good Morning America, the judge relied partly on the expertise of forensic psychologist Dr. Helen Brantley, noting “Children want a normal childhood, and it is not normal with an ill parent” and because of the “deteriorating condition of the mother’s health.”

It would be misleading to say that Alaina’s breast cancer is the only factor involved in the couple’s custody battle: as with many such cases, this one has mental health issues, allegations of domestic abuse and infidelity, and restraining orders.


However, removing a dying woman’s children from her custody and using her illness as leverage is cruel, and makes one wonder if all the adult parties really have the children’s best interests in mind. (What do you think? See the poll, “Should a mother with cancer lose custody of her children?)

In Time, Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, was quoted as saying that the ruling is “a bad precedent. We certainly wouldn’t want to have legislation suggesting that parenting is going to be contingent on being in peak health. It’s not a big jump from ‘I don’t want Mom to have custody because she has stage 4 cancer’ to ‘I don’t want Mom to have custody because she’s a smoker.”

Not only are the children being ordered to leave their mother behind, but they are also being torn away from their familiar environment, their friends, their school, and their support system.

Alaina wants to challenge the ruling, but in the meantime the outrage over the judge’s ruling is making its way around the web. There is a Facebook page called “Alaina Giordano Should Not Lose Her Kids Because She Has Breast Cancer,” and several petitions are already circulating, including at least one to have Judge Nancy Gordon removed from the bench.

Two innocent children are going to lose their mother to breast cancer. While that loss will be traumatic, why should it be exacerbated by their being deprived of her love and presence during the time she has left and being placed in an environment that is not in their best interest?

Facebook page: “Alaina Giordano Should Not Lose Her Kids Because She Has Breast Cancer
Good Morning America