Mother must get rid of Confederate flag or risk custody of biracial child, court rules

National News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A mother in upstate New York has less than a month to remove a Confederate-flag-decorated rock from her driveway before it becomes a factor in a custody battle for her biracial child, The Albany Times Union reported.

Last week, Albany, N.Y., district court justices ruled unanimously in a 5-0 decision that a couple would retain joint custody of the child, who was born in 2014, but said the woman had until June 1 to remove the rock from her driveway before it factors “into any future best interests analysis.”

Justice Stanley Pritzker, who issued the ruling, said the woman, identified only as Christie BB, had testified in a fact-finding hearing that she had a rock with a Confederate painted on it at her home. The ruling said the mother “testified that she has never used any racial slurs in front of the child or at all.”

“Given that the child is of mixed race, it would seem apparent that the presence of the flag is not in the child’s best interests, as the mother must encourage and teach the child to embrace her mixed race identity, rather than thrust her into a world that only makes sense through the tortured lens of cognitive dissonance,” Pritzker wrote in the ruling.

The judge referred to the flag as “a symbol inflaming the already strained relationship between the parties.”

“While recognizing that the First Amendment protects the mother’s right to display the flag if it is not removed by June 1, 2021, its continued presence shall constitute a change in circumstances and Family Court shall factor this into any future best interests analysis,” Pritzker wrote.

Justices John Egan, Sharon Aarons, Molly Reynolds Fitzgerald and John Colangelo joined Pritzker in the ruling.

According to the paper, it was the appellate justices who decided to take up the issue. Neither the judge who previously presided over the matter, nor the child’s law guardian, attorney Jason Leifer, had previously addressed the rock.

Leifer told the Times Union he believed the mother had moved into the residence only recently, and was not sure if she placed the rock there. However, he felt the ruling was “appropriate because it brings political views that could potentially damage the child’s well-being into the custody discussion”. But he did note it could lead to political views becoming more of an issue in family court.

“I think parties will now raise objections to many symbols and opinions held by the other party, including some that the majority of society does not find offensive,” Leifer said.

“What’s going to have to happen is this — if the issue is raised the court will need to hear evidence of the child how the child’s well-being is negatively affected by a parent’s views and opinions,” he added. “In some cases this will be easy, such as if a child is being indoctrinated into a hate group, but in many cases it won’t be so easy.”

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