I’ve just finished reading A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown (Bantam Books, 2006). When the author was 11 years old, she discovered her mother dead. Within days, she also discovered that the man she loved and called Daddy was, in fact, her stepfather. Upon hearing of the death of the mother of his children, Cupcake’s biological father, a man she’d never met, had arranged a court hearing for custody of the children. California law in 1976 meant that the judge had ‘no alternative’ but to hand over Cupcake and her brother to a stranger, their biological father, despite her Daddy’s protestations – and Cupcake’s – that he wanted the children with him. Immediately after the decision, the bio father started chasing Cupcake’s inheritance. Upon finding out that the inheritance would not be available until she was 18, the bio father sent Cupcake and her brother to a foster home and she never saw him again. Cupcake was abused and neglected and quickly turned to a life of running away, drugs, alcohol, prostitution and crime.
Her descent into her ‘hellacious’ life, as she called it, may have been avoided if the law had allowed for the ‘best interests of the children’. If the court had been able to preserve the strong and positive relationship between Cupcake and her stepfather as being in her best interest, she probably would have gone on living the happy life she had.
The law at the time failed this child tragically. Cupcake managed to turn her life around and write the book (which I recommend) and the story is ultimately one of redemption and hope.
I’m left wondering: how will we look back on our current Family Law in generations to come? Will someone read an autobiography set in 2019 and gasp: “What! They let a judge – a complete stranger to that family – decide on parenting?”
Already in my children’s lifetime, there has been a massive shift away from from court decisions to mediation, and mediation has evolved substantially since I attended mediation about my children.
Who should decide how children of separated parents are raised? Courts or parents?