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Durham mom with breast cancer in child custody battle

Posted June 1, 2011

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— A Durham mother's battles with Stage Four breast cancer and the fight over her two children is grabbing national attention after a family court judge recently ruled she can only have joint custody if she moves near Chicago, closer to their father.

Judge Nancy Gordon issued the order on April 25, saying that if Alaina Giordano doesn’t move, then the children should live primarily with their father, Kane Snyder, the sole financial provider in the family, when the current school year is over.

Giordano has appealed Gordon's ruling. Gordon said Wednesday that she is not permitted to talk about ongoing cases.

As part of her ruling, Gordon wrote that she was concerned about Giordano's health because "the course of her disease is unknown."

Connie Blumenthal, a friend of Giordano, says that she hasn't read the ruling but that she believes the case shouldn't be about cancer. She says the children want to stay in Durham and that moving could hurt Giordano's treatment.

"Her cancer is very stable, and she has a very good, excellent, top medical team in the country at Duke University Medical Center, who has been taking care of her and has brought her to this stable place," Blumenthal said.

By moving and switching care, Blumenthal said, it could take up to six months for Giordano to find an oncologist. Mounting costs of fighting the lawsuit are also a factor, she said.

Chicago attorney Jeffrey Leving, who represents Giordano's estranged husband, says Gordon's decision wasn't based entirely on Giordano's medical condition.

According to the order, Snyder had also been concerned about his wife's state of mind, saying she had suicidal thoughts and that, for a while, she disengaged in conventional treatment for her cancer.

"This is clearly not a case about breast cancer," Leving said. "The judge issued a well-reasoned opinion with 123 paragraphs of findings of fact and reached conclusions of the law."

In her order, Gordon highlighted that Snyder hasn't been able to find a job in North Carolina. The order says it's impractical for Snyder to relocate.

"The reality here is that the mother is unemployed, and the father works," Leving said. "He's not divorced. He hasn't filed for divorce. He's maintaining the mother on his health care, on his health insurance to help her and support the treatment she needs."

He adds that Giordano could easily find comparable medical care in the Chicago area.

"(Snyder) is a good man, a good husband and a good father," Leving said.

Blumenthal, meanwhile, has started a Facebook page that now has more than 21,000 people supporting Giordano. She's also raising money for Giordano's medical and legal bills.


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  • texastransplant Jun 2, 2011

    I will say that if the mother chose to move here from Chicago and she's as nutty as a fruit cake, then obviously, the children would be better off with the dad. Another scenario is that they can all go back to Chicago and she can fly back and forth for her treatments. I do find it rather odd that in a large city like Chicago, locating an oncologist would take 6 months.

  • texastransplant Jun 2, 2011

    Did the husband move to chicago after the divorce? If so, why should she have to be the one uprooted? Will his support ($) end if he gets the kids? His financial liability would likely increase if he gets the kids because he's taking them to a larger city, cost of living alone will be more (assuming he's still the sole financial support). I supposed Elizabeth Edwards children should have been taken from her when she was ill. indeed, who's to say he's not gunned down from the gangs of Chicago once the kids get there or on a routine blood draw he's found to have a very acute very aggressive form of leukemia? Given the facts I have read (granted there may be more info out there I just don't know more) the judge is out of line and is playing God.

  • clausanderson Jun 2, 2011

    Very sticky situation. It's amazing how the lives of everyday people can be similar to celebs. True neither Charlie Sheen or his ex are battling a life threatening disease but child custody battles are some of the most draining and upsetting of all litigation: http://www.hollywoodstarshoney.com/divorce/charlie-sheen-brooke-mueller-custody-battle.html

  • snowl Jun 2, 2011

    "(Snyder) is a good man, a good husband and a good father," Leving said.

    This father has the right to have his kids nearby while he supports the family financially. I'm sorry she has cancer, but I am going to have to side with the husband on this one. It is not necessary for this lady to live in Durham, NC for cancer treatments.

  • FromClayton Jun 2, 2011

    having cancer would suck. having my sweet baby boy taken away from me would be the worst thing ever....my 2 cents.

  • are you kidding me Jun 1, 2011

    quit fighting, just wasting money that is needed for health care. I understand the doctors because I have cancer, and I would not want to change my cancer doctor. She needs her kids by her side, could not agree more, but her husband is bending over backwards for her...just stop the fighting and take care of yourself lady, just take care of yourself

  • ncmedic201 Jun 1, 2011

    Read more about this story elsewhere. At one point she took her children to the hospital with her, knowing she was going to be admitted, without having childcare arranged. Her doctor actually had to take the children home and take care of them overnight! I understand why the husband is concerned for the children. It is sad but I think the children would be better off with a parent that is more emotionally stable and able to take care of them at this time.

  • kittiboo Jun 1, 2011

    This is a tough case, but I totally believe that time with her kids is the most important thing, and that the exhusband should do whatever he could to support her and her time with them. If she has people to help her (even HIM) here, and good medical care, then there should be nothing keeping her from the kids. He'll have time to spend with them. Like in the movie, "Stepmom", where Susan Sarandon's character was dying but the ex and his new wife were completely supportive of her spending as much time as possible with the kids. I can't imagine what she's going through.

  • jlh4jdj Jun 1, 2011

    If this were a man with cancer the courts would laugh him out of the building for wanting custody of his kids. Sorry I do feel for her but, the double standard amazing.