Cisek v. Cisek is a 1982 termination of visitation case that transgender activists use to discuss how transgender parents should not lose custody simply for being transgender. We agree with this sentiment; however, the Cisek case is not one where the transgender parent, Joni Christian, lost custody for being transgender. Rather, the court awarded custody to the mother. Christian subsequently transitioned to live as a Woman, and the mother refused to allow court-ordered visitation. Christian then filed contempt proceedings and the mother filed to terminate visitation. The trial court refused to terminate visitation and the mother appealed.
The Ohio appellate court reversed. Under applicable Ohio law at the time, a court may make any just and reasonable order or decree permitting any parent who is deprived of the care, custody, and control of the children to visit them at the time and under the conditions that the court directs. The exercise of this discretion has the goal of the “best interest of the child.” The court noted that “(i)t would be sufficient to conclude that if there was presented to a court evidence that visitations with a parent would be contrary to the best interest of the child, the court must deny such visitations.”
The mother called a witness, Dr. James Giannini, a medical doctor with a specialty in psychiatry. According to the court’s opinion”Dr. Giannini had examined both children. It was his opinion that the transsexualism of the appellee would have a sociopathic affect on the child… without appropriate intervention. Dr. Giannini also expressed the opinion that (child) would have difficulties in adjusting to her relationship with an individual, who though her father, is physically a woman. He felt that physical contact should be stopped.”
From this, the court stated:
“We are bothered by these negative medical opinions. We are further bothered by any substantial basis explaining the motivations of the father. He presented no evidence that he was compelled by some mental imbalance to opt for a change in his sex. Was his sex change simply an indulgence of some fantasy? Whatever the nature, the change certainly worked a burden upon the two minors. The duty of all the courts is to protect these two girls from whatever physical, mental, or social impact might occur. There is evidence that there might be mental harm. Common sense dictates that there can be social harm.”
The court concluded that “since the trial court had originally ordered visitation, there has been a substantial change in circumstances. This substantial change was justification for a reconsideration of the original order. In light of the evidence presented, there is a strong conclusion that absent adequate therapy, the two minor children are in harm’s way.”
The upshot: transgenderism should not be a bar to custody or visitation, but sometimes, it will be. In custody and visitation, the best interests of the child is paramount, not the best interest of the parent.