Mother Loses Custody Battle For Having Breast Cancer

Judge Nancy Gordon of North Carolina ruled last month that Sofia, 11, and Bud, 5, should be raised by their father, Kane Snyder, rather than their mother, Alaina Giordano. The main reason? Giordano has stage four breast cancer that, though currently stable, has metastasized in her bones.

Giordiano’s breast cancer was not the only concern–Giordano and Snyder’s divorce was an ugly one, filled with allegations of cheating, abuse and mental health issues–but the judge cited Giordano’s health as a major impetus for the ruling. Jezebel writes that Judge Gordon used the following information from forensic psychologist Dr. Helen Brantley to justify her decision:

The more contact [the children] have with the non-ill parent, the better they do. They divide their world into the cancer world and a free of cancer world. Children want a normal childhood, and it is not normal with an ill parent.

But Holly Prigerson, director of Center for Psycho-oncology & Palliative Care Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, tells ABC News that this decision will be worse for the children:

Cancer is not leprosy…young children want to be with their parents, even if ill. That’s not to say that seeing a parent so ill will not be upsetting for children–it will be frightening–but not seeing a mother and not receiving honest answers about why mommy is not there may be more detrimental to the child’s mental health and functioning than the reverse.

Judge Gordon’s ruling will send the children to live with their father in Chicago by June 17. Giordano, who lives in North Carolina, intends to appeal. Because her treatment is being monitored by the Duke Cancer Institute, moving to Chicago is near impossible. The New York Times reports that Snyder, an executive at Sears Holding, Inc., said he would not quit his job in this economic climate in order to move closer to Giordano.

Giordano told ABC:

It makes no sense to take them away from me because you don’t know how long I’m going to live…Everybody dies and none of us knows when. Some of us have a diagnosis of cancer, or diabetes, or asthma. This is a particularly dangerous ruling to base a custody case on a diagnosis.

Until an appeal can be made, Giordano is making her case through TV appearances and her Facebook page, Alaina Giordano Should Not Lose Her Kids Because She Has Breast Cancer. Sign this petition to urge the North Carolina justice system to overturn this decision.

Photo from Flickr user pfala under Creative Commons 2.0.


  1. Illness and disability don’t make you an unfit parent. If the children’s wellbeing was an issue, why didn’t they help the family get access to support services, like someone to help the Mom to take care of them, a therapist to help the children deal with her illness? But no. They take the kids away. This story broke my heart.

  2. There are a million factors in a custody case. Don’t fall for this black-and-white story.

  3. This judge let her personal feelings interfere with good judgement. If she had based her decision on a report from a psychologist who was treating the kids then that would be different, but to base it on some obscure opinion of a psychologist/slash author that she follows is inexcusable. If the mother is a danger to the children then she would not be able to share custody 50% of the time if she moved to Chicago. Neither party in this divorce is a saint but the father abondoned them and then saw his opportunity to use her illness against her. He and the judge are cut from the same disgusting cloth.

  4. Wow, this story is horribly written and terribly biased. The major factor in the custody decision was not the cancer. It was the troubling behavior of the mother. She had a long affair, during which she would dump the kids at the grandparents house for WEEKS while she flew accross the country to be with her lover. Then when it ended, she contemplated suicide. She interfered with the fautehrs visitation to the point that the daughter was becoming upset. She failed to arrange care for the kids while she hospitalized. When you read the judges actual opinion you’ll find that the cancer was a minor reason.

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