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Durham mom with breast cancer in child custody battle

A Durham mother's battles with breast cancer and custody of her two children is grabbing national attention after a family court judge's recent ruling.

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DURHAM, N.C. — 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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