The Voice of the Child: "Call me Sam -- I mean, Call Me Nate"

The Voice of the Child: "Call me Sam -- I mean, Call Me Nate"


Yesterday's (November 24, 2013) New York Times carried word of the Bode Miller - Sara McKenna interstate custody battle that is tabloid fodder in California and New York. Custody of a toddler is at stake in a tug-of-war over jurisdiction and gender rights. Ms. McKenna moved to New York while pregnant; a NYC family court judge refused to grant custody to her after her son's birth, criticizing her for spiriting her fetus from San Diego for forum shopping purposes; the California Court gave Mr. Miller temporary custody, which order he enforced; a New York Appellate Court reversed its lower court; and a new custody hearing is set for Nov. 25th.

In the meanwhile, we have been hearing about and participating in discussions of how the "voice of the child" should be heard and reckoned with in family courts and in mediation. The topic is not without controversy and is far from complete. With a discussion about it in the context of mediation from the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation Annual Institute, on November 22nd freshly in mind, we were struck by a small but HUGE fact from the Miller-McKenna story that should be the headline of their collective parenting shame:

THEY CAN'T EVEN AGREE ON WHAT TO CALL THEIR SON

She calls him Sam, while he has renamed the boy Nate. Can it get more insane? And, by the way, both parents proclaim their intent to share parenting.

The court cases will come and go. The Courts will make interesting jurisdictional decisions. A woman's right to control her body will compete with a father's right to a fair shake in custody litigation. Lawyers will prosper and courts will compete for jurisdiction. And, in the end, none of it will matter to the subject of this adult madness.

We shake our heads and simultaneously say to one another "This kid hasn't got a chance."

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