By Michael H. Gora
Not all mothers are perfect. Not all fathers are perfect and, unfortunately all children born are not genetically, psychologically, and physically perfect. When, on occasion the best interests of such a child falls within our professional penumbra we must do our best for that child in order to keep her and him safe from harm.
The “We”, as defined would include our judges, lawyers, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and physical therapists, among others.
When we have the responsibility to protect such a child from his father or mother who is far less than perfect, although loving, our heart strings are often torn asunder with the difficulty that we might have in adjudicating such a conundrum or representing the mother or father whether we represent the normal parent or the non-normal parent.
Every judge and every lawyer knows two things when such difficult cases arise. We know that every parent has a constitutional right and a moral right to spend time with their child and we also know that the best interests of the child may be served only when the child and parent are kept apart entirely or with the help of a supervisor for a parent’s access.
Florida law long ago, through appellate decisions declares that alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling addiction or other similar patterns of behavior are illnesses. When a mother or father has such a disease we also know that there is no known absolute period of time when that disease will permanently abate.
In my experience I have found that such addicts are the best of liars and the worst of drivers and just as bad at taking care of his or her most precious son or daughter some of the time.
As infants, toddlers, and pre-teens these children demand the best care and close attention, as they will to adulthood, for different reason. Here I am talking about the ability for such a single parent to act as the guardian of his or her normal child.
What if, however their child is one of the benighted? Perhaps an autistic child, or genetically challenged child who cannot appreciate the danger of an approaching car or truck. Or an autistic or a child who may when small controversies arise with a parent or classmate goes into convulsive fits of screaming and worse.
What if the addict father or mother happens to be on a bender when his or dearest and most precious child wanders near the road through a supposedly locked door and lock garden gate…or into the back yard pool, or has a screaming and kicking episode because his or her parent had fallen asleep on a Sunday afternoon after drinking six beers and watching a football game.
If such a parent cannot adequately take care of a normal child, what chance does the benighted child has under the care of his or her addicted parent.
It is not judicial error to protect children against a parent when that parent has such history and worse by way of a complicated psychological history which place him or her in a risk category for reasons not connected to addiction.
The best interests of the child should remain paramount under all circumstances.