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Posts Tagged ‘Divorce’

Insisting I get back to “normal,” I found myself on a bike at the gym reading the New Yorker. It’s the latest issue and the extremely long, entangled article titled, “Are You My Mother?” (a gay couple, an adoption plan, and a brutal custody battle) by Ian Parker held my interest; so much so that I would have never have left the bike if not for my aching back! New York family law was in the midst of defining what makes a parent for same sex couples¬†– biology, adoption, support, intent? After all, it is a bit tricky.

Still I had two mothers long before it was even possible with open adoptions, LGBT rights, and the latest in reproductive wizardry. My mothers had made an arrangement in 1949; Nell would care for me while the Flapper was recuperating from her injuries. My biological mother couldn’t afford to pay her and she didn’t offer. I found out later the Flapper was receiving a small stipend from the state of PA as a widow with children, but my foster parents never asked for money. No papers had been signed, only an oral contract asking Nell NOT to adopt me.

In this Brooklyn case of two mothers (Hamilton v Gunn) there was also no contract signed. Two women were a couple who had planned to adopt, it was an international adoption and so one had to “pretend” to be a single heterosexual woman, only before the adoption became final these women broke up. Pure and simple – they were no longer a couple, yet the one woman, Hamilton, who had begun the process of adoption still wanted a child. And so she continued and brought home a boy from Ethiopia. They had never married, though one claimed they’d been engaged.

For years the previously romantic couple continued their friendship, naming the other woman, Gunn, the boy’s Godmother, To complicate matters, this other woman continued to help financially and also to babysit at times. It wasn’t until Hamilton decided to return to Great Britain where she would be able to find work and be close to her family that Gunn sought out a lawyer, thereby striking new territory in parent equality cases – many times while reading this article I thought to myself, if this had been between a man and a woman what would have happened? Why is a same sex couple treated differently by the courts?

In most family law cases it comes down to this: what is the best decision for the child! This best-interests rule is dubious at best. Hillary Clinton wrote in 1973 that the rule is used as “…a rationalization by decision-makers justifying their judgements about a child’s future, like an empty vessel into which adult perceptions and prejudices are poured.” ¬†¬†http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/22/what-makes-a-parent

Who will be able to afford the best schools, the better vacations, etc and most commonly it was the marginalized parent without resources who would inevitably lose. The women’s movement gave us some freedom, but made mothers who traditionally hadn’t developed a career outside the home, more vulnerable in family custody hearings by granting more rights to fathers. Remember the movie Kramer vs Kramer? That scenario scarred me for life.

In the end, Gunn lost her case because the judge said that their plan to adopt had terminated – that it had not “continued unabated.” The little boy would get his passport back, but since Gunn has appealed the ruling, there will be no flying away to England in the foreseeable future. So the lawyers get richer and the child is stuck in limbo.

In cases like these, I am always drawn to the Biblical story involving two mothers and the sound Judgement of Solomon. I want to believe the real mother would naturally give up her child in the end, would never allow a sword to be used, even in the metaphorical sense. Maybe that’s because I was always going back and forth, between two mothers, two states, two very different temperaments. With Nell and Daddy Jim I had the unconditional love of two parents, and for that reason the Flapper never insisted I return to her. She worked hard, she moved to NJ, and she waited, until it was my decision.

And in my opinion, love, like the definition of family, is expanding all the time.

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