Non-news vs. the rant
By J.T. Ryder
For anyone that has become attached to a child, either through a marriage or other type of domestic relationship, the denial of being able to be in contact with that child is devastating. Day after day, thousands of custody hearings are held and ruled on in this country, in the majority of which we never hear of the tragic loss one parent must now endure from the seemingly cold decision of a judge. So, why are we hearing about the custody case involving Kelly Mullen and her daughter? Because it also involves Mullen’s same-sex partner Michele Hobbs. That’s it and that is all.
There are those that wish to turn this into a rallying point for the LGBT community but other than the titillating, headline-inducing fact that they were engaged in a lesbian partnership, there is nothing held within this case that falls outside of the legal writ that heterosexual couples are held to. Had this been the case of Lisa Miller, who was a biological mother who lost her parental rights to her ex-lesbian partner and then who was accused of kidnapping when she took her daughter to Nicaragua to escape her ex-girlfriend who she claimed abused her daughter … well, now there is a story of unfairness and a judicial system with its eyes firmly squinted shut.
People may get behind the Mullen/Hobbs case because of the innate emotional impact that one can empathize with, imagining the loss one must feel after going through a pregnancy with a loved partner, then raising that child in a familial setting for two years, only to be told you can never see that child again. It is heart wrenching to contemplate but, again, in this case, it is no different than the custody battles waged daily in the American court system between heterosexual couples.
The fact that Hobbs was assigned the sobriquet of “co-parent” and, one may imagine, took that role seriously and diligently, does little to change the course of the opinion rendered by the courts. Again, it is emotionally wrenching, but in the cold text of the law, there is little or no recourse.
Taking the human factor out of the equation, one can look at it this way: Let’s say that you own a car, but you let me drive it everywhere. I take care of the car, spending money out of my pocket to make repairs and maintain the vehicle. I even wash it every Sunday to a spit-shined gleam. I love that damned car. You decide that you do not wish for me to drive that car anymore and take it back. As I cry over that purple AMC Gremlin I nurtured through its earliest oil changes and stayed up late into the night after it overheated, I am left with nothing but some random transmission stains on my driveway. I have no legal recourse because you own the title, you bastard.
As you say to yourself, “My God! That was the stupidest analogy I have ever heard!” the correlations are definitely relevant. Even a biological father usually gets trumped in court by the biological mother unless severe mitigating circumstances exist or the father has vastly more money and a vastly better legal team than the mother. Remember, the scales of justice are usually a good measure of how many more silver pieces are on one side than the other.
My thoughts are drawn more into the realm of “What about the children?” Are their needs ever really taken into account by the judicial system … or any system for that matter? Even in a shared custody situation, the children usually have to endure the petty hatreds of the parents for each other and usually find themselves used as pawns to hurt the other parent. The kids are pumped for information on how and what the other parent is doing or dangled like a carrot until the other parent does the bidding of the one who has primary custody.
You see cases where a person with fine parenting skills and the means to take care of a child is stripped of their parental rights only to find out later that the child is being abused or neglected by the one that has maintained parental control. Are the children’s best interests being watched over by the courts that so easily rendered a verdict based on written secondhand statements? Since we have 20 caseworkers for every Amy Winehouse, drug-addled, rehab dweller in this country, why can’t we spare a few case workers to take on the role of true guardians to the children’s well-being? Even though this sounds like a plea for more invasive government, in this case, the people involved in these situations directly are a little too biased and broken to be able to make an objective decision themselves. Let’s just see if we can raise a generation of children that aren’t being sidelined by the woebegone decisions of the politicians and judicial system and who aren’t treated as collateral damage on the net gain flow charts of corporate America. For all of these people using the rallying cry of “What about the children?” or “Think of the children!” try to actually do what is right for the children.
As for this case, in looking for some deep, meaningful philosophical debate … it’s not going to happen. It is just another ruined life in the human wrecking yard of relationships. Tragic as it is, unless the judicial system revamps itself to be able to actually take care of our future, the trail of broken souls will get increasingly longer.
Reach DCP freelance writer J.T. Ryder at JTRyder@DaytonCityPaper.com.