Dell-Lakshmi Custody Case Heats Up; Slate Weighs in Against Father

OK, they forced my hand.

I’m not big on celebrity divorces.  They seem invariably to be tawdry affairs that teach us little but the fact that celebrities can be as uninteresting and lacking in imagination as the rest of us.  And we already knew that.

But, when forced, I make exceptions and this article, as I said, forced my hand (Slate, 2/1/11).

It’s about the divorce between Adam Dell and “Top Chef” Padma Lakshmi.  Here’s an article that provides basic information about that case (New York Post, 1/27/11).

What’s triggered this latest spasm of articles is Dell’s recent filing which includes a number of allegations that are none too flattering to Lakshmi.  Now, of course, they’re nothing more than allegations, so they shouldn’t be taken at face value.  But what Dell’s petition describes is a woman who was once his lover and now the mother of his child, hell-bent on keeping him out of his daughter’s life.

And many those things are verifiable independently of Dell’s allegations, so I suspect they’re correct.  They’re things like the fact that Lakshmi was sexually involved with financier Ted Forstmann at the same time she and Dell were together. 

That meant that she didn’t know who the father was and DNA testing was required to find out.  Test results came back before she gave birth, and they identified Dell as the dad of the little girl Lakshmi named Krishna without consulting Dell. 

So, Lakshmi knew Dell was the father, but she refused to allow him to be at the hospital for the birth of his child.  Exactly how she did that, I’d be interested to know.  In several adoption cases I’ve discussed, mothers have simply lied to hospital authorities, saying they didn’t know who the father was.  Was that Lakshmi’s tactic too?

And somehow, Dell’s name was left off the birth certificate.  The way most state bureaus of vital statistics get information for birth certificates is by asking the mother shortly before the birth.  So if Dell’s daughter’s birth certificate has the father’s name left blank, it’s for one reason only – Lakshmi didn’t provide it, despite having proof via genetic testing.

The little girl is now almost a year old and, according to Dell, he’s been forced to beg for every minute of time he’s spent with her. 

Dell’s lawyer, Bill Zabel, told Page Six that his client just “wants to have an active and substantial role in the upbringing of his daughter with Padma Lakshmi. Unfortunately, Ms. Lakshmi has severely limited his time with their daughter and has refused to negotiate a reasonable co-parenting agreement. Mr. Dell has tried his best to avoid going to court, but Ms. Lakshmi has given him no other choice at this time.”

So he filed suit to obtain what should have been his all along – the right to time with his child.  But he’s going for more than that; he’s asked the court for sole custody plus child support from Lakshmi.

And it was that – Dell’s asking for custody and child support – that caused Casey Greenfield to flail rhetorically at Daddy Dell in Slate.  I guess we should call her piece “Casey at the Bat.” 

Her complaints about Dell are several, but they all add up to one thing, “How dare he assert his parental rights against those of his child’s mother!”  For doing so, Greenfield calls him “pathetic.”

Her main problem with Dell’s filing is that it was done publicly.  She’s right that, by filing it in New York Supreme Court, the petition becomes available online whereas, if it had been filed in Family Court, it wouldn’t be.  It would still have been a matter of public record, just not as easily obtained.

But, please.  Does Greenfield seriously believe that New York papers, bloggers, TV and radio would all somehow overlook the fact that celebrity Adam Dell had just filed suit for custody against his celebrity ex?  Here’s a hint: they wouldn’t.  The tabloids and half of all other media outlets in the state would have picked it up.  So would most of them across the country as indeed they have.

And of course Greenfield’s entire claim that Lakshmi, who never saw a camera she didn’t like, for some reason shouldn’t be exposed to publicity borders on the delusional.  Again, please.

Sorry, Casey, that’s strike one.

But more important is the fact that Greenfield manages to miss what I suspect no one else does – that if Lakshmi didn’t want a messy public custody case, maybe she should have let Dell see his daughter.  If even half of what Dell alleges is true, Lakshmi’s behavior towards him has been outrageous. 

She seems to have assumed that he had no right to associate with his own child and now she’s learning she was wrong.  That her apologist Greenfield finds Dell’s public assertion of his rights to be reprehensible but not Lakshmi’s denial of contact with his daughter must be the last word in anti-dadism.

What, other than filing suit, was he supposed to have done given that Lakshmi didn’t let him see his daughter?  Greenfield doesn’t have an answer, probably because there’s not one.  What Dell has done was the only route left to him in the absence of an agreement – ask the court for an order.

Strike two.

But that’s far from all.  For one thing, she says outright that, when Dell requests custody and child support, he doesn’t really mean it; according to her he’s just blowing smoke.  How does she know?  She doesn’t, and is in fact blowing smoke herself.

Then she moves on to the shocking (we’re shocked, shocked!) revelation that Dell is overstating what he wants knowing he’ll settle for less. 

Let’s see; I wonder how many lawyers filing claims of all sorts do that.  All of them or just 99%?  That Greenfield pretends that doing so is in any way unusual is just plain silly.  As I understand her, it’s OK for every other complainant in the country, just not Adam Dell.

But where she really goes over the edge is her claim that Dell filed suit “regardless of what’s best for Krishna.”  Oh?  And when did Greenfield – or Lakshmi for that matter – suddenly cultivate such a heightened sense of “what’s best for Krishna?”  

It must have been sometime after Dell filed suit because it certainly wasn’t before.  It certainly wasn’t during the 11 months when Lakshmi was keeping Krishna from her father.  Doing so violated both Dell’s parental rights and his daughter’s best interests.  Greenfield’s claim that Dell’s seeking contact with his child is detrimental to her interests but Lakshmi’s denial of it is not sets some sort of record in the long, sorry history of anti-father discourse.

That’s strike three; “Mighty” Casey has struck out.  

It’s good to know that we seldom read such blatant anti-father rants any more.  Most people have gotten the message that fathers are important to children’s wellbeing.  More and more, family courts are waking up to the twin facts that fathers have parental rights and it’s a good thing for the children that they do.

The news and opinion media are getting the message too.  Rarely do we see the type of overt anti-dad bias that was pretty routine 10 years ago.  Still, as Greenfield’s piece shows, there are always a few who didn’t get the memo.

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