CARS HOMES JOBS

Iraq veteran loses custody of son

Court denies mother’s appeal

Friday, January 4, 2008
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Tanya Towne stands on the porch of her home in Canajoharie this past summer. Towne was denied  custody of her sonin a court decision on Thursday.
Photographer: Bruce Squiers
Tanya Towne stands on the porch of her home in Canajoharie this past summer. Towne was denied custody of her sonin a court decision on Thursday.

— A Canajoharie woman who lost custody of her son while she was on military duty in Iraq lost her appeal and won’t be getting her son back.

In a decision on Thursday, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court sided with Richard S. Diffin Jr. of Virginia, the former husband of Tanya Towne who filed for custody of their son while Towne was being sent to war in 2004.

Towne learned about the latest decision Thursday and said she was upset and in shock.

She said the courts might rule differently if they heard her son crying on the telephone from hundreds of miles away.

Diffin could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Towne and Diffin had joint legal custody of their son, Derrell, who Towne raised to age 8 with primary physical custody of the boy. Derrell is almost 12 years old now.

Derrell lived with Towne and her new husband until she was sent to Iraq with her National Guard unit. When Diffin learned that Towne was scheduled for overseas duty, he petitioned the court for custody of the boy, according to court papers.

Towne wanted her son to stay in Canajoharie with her extended family, including her new husband and Derrell’s younger sibling, hoping to maintain the stability of his existing living situation.

State and federal laws protect soldiers from court action while they’re deployed, so the local Family Court judge, Philip Cortese, postponed court action on Diffin’s request for custody.

But Cortese issued a temporary order granting custody of Derrell to Diffin in Virginia, saying that it was best that the child be with the remaining biological parent, according to court papers.

When Towne returned in October 2005, she petitioned the Family Court to reinstate the original custody arrangement while Diffin argued for primary physical custody. The court then granted Diffin physical custody.

Towne, through her attorney William E. Lorman, appealed the decision to the appellate division.

Lorman was out of the country Thursday and could not be reached for comment, according to a secretary at his Amsterdam office.

In its decision, the appellate court states that Towne and Diffin are “both excellent parents.”

“Both have demonstrated stable employment, adequate income, suitable homes, and an unwavering commitment to Derrell’s well-being,” the decision states.

But the court ultimately decided that sending Derrell back to Towne would not serve the boy’s best interests.

“His interests are best served by the stability of an uninterrupted custody arrangement,” the ruling states.

Towne on Thursday said she intends to write letters to governmental representatives, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and anybody else that could help her.

“I’m not going to stop, I’m going to do whatever I can do. I don’t know what the courts are thinking,” she said.

 
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comments

January 4, 2008
8:04 a.m.
schenmom says...

the court system today suck they need serious help they dont care really heres a mom who went and fought for our country and what the do take her son away there something wrong with this pic and the only way to change it is starting with us give her the bot back what the heck is wrong with u ppl the system is all messed up

January 4, 2008
10:59 a.m.
militarymom says...

A similar thing happened to me due to my military service. I urge all parents to immediately request a discharge from service. Maybe when the judges and law guardian's daughters are drafted and they lose custody of their children, things will change. The treatment of those of us who serve our country is a shameful disgrace. Our country has used and abused us. Get out while you can. Retired Military Mom

January 4, 2008
11:23 a.m.
tjp says...

As foster parents, it makes us sick to see Judges send kids back to biological parents when those parents are not ready to have custody.

The poor kids are the ones who suffer.

I hope she continues to fight for her child back. What her ex husband did was a very bad thing.

www.pafundi.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Number of Operations Iraq Freedom and Enduring Freedom casualties as confirmed by U.S. Central Command: 4359

January 4, 2008
12:06 p.m.
effingreat says...

The only reason that this is newsworthy is because it's happening to a woman. Military guys lose their kids all the freaking time while deployed.

January 4, 2008
12:37 p.m.
militarymom says...

I disagree with the above. The reason this is newsworthy is because it's against the military (men and women). To be punished with the lose of a child because one serves their country is another casualty of war. However, you never see this come up in the recruitment commercials. Service men and women everywhere have been discriminated against in custody issues. We fight to protect or family, yet have no family when we come home. Why don't the politicians address this issue? They put us in this situation, then turn their backs on us. It makes me sorry I served, 20 years and in TWO WARS! And this is the thanks I got.

January 4, 2008
3:23 p.m.
Emmett says...

effingreat is absolutely right. This happens to military MEN all the time and nobody cares. When it happens to a woman, oh, well, then it's all over the newspaper as the outrage of the day.

January 4, 2008
10:48 p.m.

If a business person was going overseas for a year and couldn't take their child with them, planning to just leave them with their new spouse, the courts would likely side with the remaining biological parent. If an oil worker was going out to the rigs for a year, same thing. An astronaut spending a year on the space station, same thing again.

In every case, the judge will side with what's in the child's best interest, not whether the parent is doing something patriotic or otherwise wonderful.

Yes, military service is a great thing. Is it better than a child's rights to have the best parenting options possible? Of course not.

It's quite possible the judge made a bad decision in choosing the biological father over the step father and half siblings. If that's the case, fair enough, it was wrong. But that decision should be made based on the two options for the child, not the leaving parent's reasons for leaving.

But, assuming it was the right decision for the child, are you seriously arguing that the mother's being all wonderful and patriotic is more important than what's right for the child?

In short, for all we kneejerk over "Those poor heroes!" the simple truth is that whatever the reason a parent goes away for a year is, it shouldn't matter in the least when making THE RIGHT DECISION FOR THE CHILD.

By the sounds of things, it didn't in this case. It sucks but that doesn't stop the judge from making the decision based on the only grounds that count: The child's best interests and ignoring the ones that, I'm sorry, really don't: What the parent's cause for leaving is.

January 5, 2008
5:01 a.m.
Nomadic says...

Hmmm...Oddly enough I would have to disagree with you.

Basically what you just said is that if you have a child don't serve int he military, when in fact, many soldiers do what they do FOR their families.

For a businessman or an oil rig worker, you can refuse those assignments which would jeopardize your custody situation, the military does not get this option short of going AWOL which would only make the matter worse.

What the judge did was award FULL custody of the child to the father, from the material presented it appears she was trying to regain joint custody.

I would agree that FULL custody would indeed be bad for the child, however JOINT custody would still be an option, and the judge ruled against even that. In effect what he said was, "Soldiers have no rights regarding their children."

After having served 8 years in the military I have seen this garbage so many times it made me ill. I never had any children, but I understand that these soldiers loved their kids very much and were shafted and told by people like you, NotAllAConspiracy, that they have no rights.

After what these soldiers, sailors, and Airmen do for you to protect YOUR rights, I'd think you'd be supportive in protecting THEIRS.

January 5, 2008
8:47 a.m.
Elizabeth says...

A mom volunteers for training about how to kill people. She gets paid to practice the art. (Some very odd people think it's unnatural for a mother to leave her child for a weekends or a week or more to train to kill people in war.) She then goes to war, as planned, abandoning her child or children, and goes killing people for a year or so. When she comes back, she wants everyone to think of her as a warm and caring mommie. Shock, horror, the person looking after the best interest of the kid thinks it's best for the kid to stay with the daddy, who has been taking care of the child, instead of being off killing and such. Oh, the horror for this poor child! And the proof of the horror is that the child cried!! No children with their mommies cry.

January 5, 2008
10:11 a.m.
virginiaguy says...
(This comment was removed by the site staff.)
January 7, 2008
4:34 p.m.
CMA542 says...

Elizabeth, there are countless military careers that don't involve killing people, from supply clerks to nurses, doctors, couselors and even travel coordinators. This is true in the "regular" armed forces and the National Guard. This article does not even mention Ms. Towne's job in the National Guard. Finally, the National Guard serves our country in times of national crisis, not just during wartime, so why would you suggest she went to war "as planned?" Also, are you suggesting that all individuals who serve in the armed forces and National Guard are not suitable parents and should have their children removed from their homes? Finally, what line of work exactly are YOU in?

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