Religion at Center of Another Custody Battle

Hispanic Catholic step-mom says court order forces her to live as Orthodox Jew

For the second time this year, religion is taking center stage in another custody battle being waged in Chicago's courts.

Laura Derbigney of Chicago has found herself in the middle of a custody battle between her Catholic husband and his Jewish ex-wife over how their 7-year-old son is cared for during paternal visits.

A court order restricts Laura Derbigney and her husband, Nelson, from driving the boy in a car, allowing him to use electronics or to be fed pork and other foods as outlined in Orthodox Judaism.

"I truly feel it's an intrustion on my home life," she said from her attorney's office Monday. "That I have to now obey certain aspects of being kosher and following Sabbath in order for my husband and I to see his son, is wrong."

The boy's biological mother also asked Derbigney that the boy's food be purchased at a certain grocery store, claiming the boy was fed non-kosher hot dogs during visits with his dad.

"I have to purchase certain products. I prefer minority-owned stores. I'm Hispanic and Catholic. I make enchiladas. Flautas. Now I'm being ridiculed for making food I grew up with," she explained. "I thought there was a differenct between church and state. Because she's a Hasidic jew, I have to live live as Hasidic jew too?"

Her attorney, Joel Brodsky, says the court is out of line.  Brodsky, who earlier this year won a similar religious case, said the First Amendment right to live according to your own religious beliefs is being thrown out the door with the temporary restriction.

"Just because you're divorced, the court can't say how to live your lives or what grocery store you can go to," Brodsky said. "The next step is going to be a Muslim father with custody. During the next visitation, is the mother going to have to wear a burka? That's where we're heading. Divorce courts have to stop getting in the way of religion."
A gag order prevents the boy's biological mother and father from speaking to the media about the case.

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