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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Family Court Will Break Your Heart

Lorella H. Kampala, Uganda.

Family Court will break your heart.  On our first day at the High Court, Bryon & I observed a legal guardianship proceeding for an 8-month old baby.  At the end of it, the baby would be given a Ugandan passport so that the guardians could bring him to their home in America, eventually to adopt him in a US court.  The baby was present, mostly sleeping, rocked in the arms of his new mother.  Both his new parents were there, looking somewhat anxious but happy.

Next to them sat the baby's birth mother, one of the most beautiful young women I have ever seen.  Barely 18 now, she is still in school.  She had become pregnant as the result of a crime and was getting no support whatsoever from her own parents.

After all she had been through, the legal system imposes one more ordeal.  She had to sit in that small courtroom, watching another woman cuddle her son.  And then she had to come forward ("speak up!") and tell the judge that she understood she was giving up all rights to the baby and would probably never see him again, that she was willing for it to happen, and that she was receiving nothing in return.  As cruel as this is, it is also necessary— the adoptive parents will have to prove to an American court that they have not stolen or purchased the child.  This guardianship proceeding was clearly going to provide the best way ahead for the baby and all of his parents.  But it wasn't easy to watch.

Family Court will break your heart.  The challenge, I think, is to let it break your heart open.  And then to go out into the world with a more open heart.