The Corner

Divorce & Language Litigation

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 <A

HREF=”http://www.eece.unm.edu/staff/larranag/www/childabuse.html”>1995.

The second was <A

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

“La

Bamba”. That is not right.

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