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Could chronic migraine jeopardize child custody?

No doubt many of you reading this have heard about the 33-year-old mother of two with end-stage breast cancer who lost custody of her children because a judge believes her to be an unsuitable caregiver. No one wants to think about being in a similar situation, but the reality is that when breakups get ugly and one parent has a serious chronic illness, any one of us could find ourselves in a similar battle.

Although migraine is generally not a life-threatening illness, those of us with chronic migraine know how debilitating it can be. There is no doubt it interferes with our ability to be the kind of parents and caregivers we want to be. If you were to find yourself in a similar situation would the law be on your side? As is so often the case with complex legal issues, there is no clear cut answer.

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Generally speaking in child custody matters the standard for awarding custody is determining what is in the best interest of the child. Factors involved include the parent’s ability to provide financial and emotional support for the child, support available to the parents, the environment the child would be living in, parenting skills and (for older children) the child’s preference. Judges are given a great deal of discretion in making these decisions and child custody is always decided on a case-by-case basis because the facts involved in each situation vary so wildly.

In Alaina Giordano’s case, the court heard evidence that she is unemployed, being treated for cancer and had spent time out of state in an adulterous relationship while her children stayed with their grandparents. Additionally, both parents spent a night in jail following a heated altercation.

Clearly, cancer is a key issue in this case, but it is also apparent the judge had other concerns. Of course, I have to imagine one reason Giordano is currently unemployed relates to her cancer diagnosis, which brings us right back to the question of whether it is truly in the best interest of the children to be separated from their mother.

While on one hand reading about this issue has left me feeling like most of us wouldn’t have our children taken from us regardless of our health status, how would our lives look in court if someone was presenting evidence about us? Although we all try to always do our best, we all have faults. It’s scary to think we might have to answer publicly for every decision we’ve made in hopes of keeping our children in our lives just because we have had the misfortune of dealing with chronic migraine.

I don’t know what the right answer is in this situation, but I do know it seems patently cruel to take these children away from their mother in what may very well be the last weeks or months they’ll ever have together before she passes away.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    8 years ago

    Where is this information coming from about Ms.Giordano? She has admitted to her affairs, and there is information of abuse. She has been a stay at home mom for most of her children’s lives and the above implications are extremely offensive to me on many levels. I take great offense to the implication that Migraine disease would even be considered a reason to lose custody of a child. To speculate on her unemployment status due to disease without accurate knowledge is unacceptable. This woman and her family have and will be going through enough.

    With 37 million Migraineurs in America, if Migraine disease is a reason to lose custody of our children, Lord help us.

    I mean, really.

    see Alaina Giordano, Mom with Stage 4 Cancer, Speaks Out About Losing Her Kids.
    Read more:

    Losing Custody Because She Has Cancer.

  • Elaine Gross
    8 years ago

    The case given is rather extreme and filled with anger and resentment. But as a chronic migraineur I have to say I am glad that I didn’t get these until my mid 50’s. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to deal with this and raise children at the same time. The thought of it is enough to give me a migraine. My heart goes out to all those in such situations.

  • Joanne Rose Petrella Minchini
    8 years ago

    Too sad!

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