The Sad Saga of Woody and Mia

June 13, 1993

Now that it is over, we wonder what to make of the unhapp case of filmmaker Woody Allen, actress Mia Farrow and their children.

A New York judge has now awarded custody of the couple's three children to Ms. Farrow after a bruising court battle that included charges Mr. Allen had sexually molested his 4-year-old daughter, Dylan, and his admission that he had a sexual affair with Ms. Farrow's 19-year-old adopted daughter, Soon-Yi. A team of investigators concluded Mr. Allen hadn't abused Dylan, but the judge raised doubts about that finding.

In denying Mr. Allen's bid for custody, the trial judge described him as a "self-absorbed, untrustworthy and insensitive" father who tried to pit family members against each other and lacked knowledge about basic aspects of his children's lives.

It's difficult to empathize unreservedly with either of the two protagonists in this drama. Neither Mr. Allen nor Ms. Farrow, with whom he has had a relationship for the last 12 years, came off as model parents. It seems incredible they would willingly put themselves and their children through the kind of humiliating public spectacle they knew such a trial would produce.

It may be true there are no more bitter adversaries than lovers once the flame has died. Nevertheless, the trial judge implicitly put the onus on Mr. Allen when he ruled the director's custody suit was a frivolous complaint and ordered him to pay all legal expenses.

It's hard to imagine such a devastating experience producing any real winners. When families break up, children almost always lose. When families break up, something irreplaceable invariably lost. That loss may be even greater when the family is privileged, talented and unabashedly unconventional. Just ask Woody and Mia.

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