For only the second time in my memory, a judge has ruled ordered a parent
to speak less Spanish to his own child. The first was in HREF=”http://www.eece.unm.edu/staff/larranag/www/childabuse.html”>1995.
The second was HREF=”http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,100085,00.html”>this week.
The 1995 case involved a divorced husband seeking unsupervised visits with
his daughter. He claimed his ex-wife was preventing their child from
learning English. The 2003 case also involved visitation rights, only this
time it was the father who wished to speak more Spanish to his daughter
than his ex-wife preferred.
Divorce, not language choice in the home, is the real basis of both
disputes. (Full disclosure: I am divorced, but my divorce was friendly and
involved no children. Still nothing I’m proud of.)
Given our current legal regimen of easy divorce but strict child support
laws, divorced (and divorcing) parents are all too often tempted to engage
in scorched-earth tactics. The parent who wins child custody by any means,
far or foul, wins big economically. And some divorced parents will argue
about child visitation for years, if only to further “punish” their ex-spouse.
Had both sets of parents remained married, they probably would have solved
their linguistic dispute over coffee at their kitchen table, instead of in
a courtroom. Now, Eloy Amador may be hauled back into court one day
because his wife claims she heard him serenading his beloved daughter with
Bamba”. That is not right.