I’ve spent years honing my legal practice and...
The Custody Case of Nicole Curtis’ Son & the Role of the Courts in Breastfeeding
A recent Oakland County custody case made national headlines (read a People magazine story here), since it involved HGTV and DIY Network’s Rehab Addict host Nicole Curtis. Born and raised in Lake Orion, 41-year-old Curtis has been locked in a two-year custody battle for her young son, Harper.
The father, a Minnesota businessman named Shane Maguire, fought for parental rights and won visitation when the boy was six months old.
Curtis believes in attachment parenting, which promotes a strong bond between parent and child. This included exclusively breastfeeding the baby, which posed a challenge when such a young child had to be away from his mother for time with his father.
This commitment to breastfeeding was a core issue in the vicious custody battle.
It’s not unusual in family court to ask a judge to decide where the children should attend school, leaving it in the judge’s hands to determine which school district offers the best opportunities and is in the child’s best interests.
But asking a judge to weigh in on other parenting decisions – like whether a child should be exclusively breastfed or weaned earlier than he might otherwise want, or on which (if any) vaccines a parent should facilitate – feels completely different.
Outside of court, we as a community might be comfortable saying these are personal decisions. And they are. Reasonable minds hold differing opinions. Issues like breastfeeding and vaccinations are not black and white, though people feel passionately about their particular stance; the truth is, there is no absolute right or absolute wrong.
So, how does a judge decide? Should personal bias play a role?
More importantly, how will such a personal decision, played out in public, affect the child when he is 12 or 21 or married with children of his own? While a toddler might not consciously realize the impact of such a battle on his growth and perceptions, they’re there nonetheless.
The parents are making a conscious decision to play out their personal lives in the public arena. Granted, Nicole Curtis is a television personality. She gave over the right to most privacies when she chose that career path. Even moreso when she and her former partner decided to battle so viciously in court.
The impact, though, is far-reaching and never quite goes away.
My biggest question in a case like this is, who is considering the long-term impact on the child? The parents are surely not – though they think they are. They’re gripped by their personal desire to be with him and parent him the way each of them believes is best.
Are they looking at the big picture; considering all the facts? Or are they letting their pride and emotions drive their actions and decisions – to not compromise and instead turn to a stranger with no connection to the child to make the decision for them?