I discussed the Batista divorce controversy on Fox & Friends recently. This is the case where Dr. Richard Batista, a prominent New York surgeon, donated a kidney to save his wife’s life back in 2001 and is now asking for compensation for the kidney as part of their divorce settlement. He claims she cheated on him after the donation.

I told Fox host Steve Doocy that, assuming Batista is telling the truth, I support him.

On one hand, I hate to see even more divorce-related rancor.  However, according to Batista, his ex-wife has been preventing him from exercising his agreed-upon visitation with the couple’s three children.  Batista says he is making the kidney demand as a way to get publicity and force his ex to allow him back into his children’s lives.  I made the point that interference with parenting time (aka “visitation”) is a major problem for divorced fathers.

Beyond the issue with Batista’s children, it seems fair enough to me that if they are going to be dividing up property in a divorce, his gift of a kidney to her, valued at around $1.5 million, should be considered in the settlement. To learn more, see Estranged husband wants his donated kidney back (Newsday, 1/8/09).

Dr. Batista’s wife has now fired back in the article Dawnell Batista, wife at center of kidney case breakup finally tells her dramatic story (New York Daily News, 1/18/09).  Predictably, she instead accuses him of having an affair, tells us (basically) that he’s a poor father, and plays victim.

On the affair part, I have no idea which (if either) of them are telling the truth.  However, certain comments I find noteworthy.  From the article:

Dawnell Batista doesn’t want to be talking to a reporter. She’s in the middle of what will forever be known as the Kidney Divorce, and she is an amazing woman who’s been betrayed both by her body and her husband. She’s had three kidney transplants and a double mastectomy. She’s raising three kids alone and has gone back to work as a nurse. You think she’s not strong?

There we go — the amazing, strong woman “raising three kids alone” and betrayed by her husband.  I see no evidence that she’s “raising three kids alone,” and I would imagine that he’s paying her a lot of money — otherwise we certainly would have heard her complaining and playing victim over it.

She’d given Dr. Batista a son, and now he gave her a kidney. It was a beautiful, generous act. Yet, now he’s holding it over her head, saying he wants a $1.5 million credit as they’re about to divvy up the assets.

I didn’t realize that she had the son only for Dr. Batista — I imagine that she had the son for herself too.

Surprisingly, she does manage to praise Dr. Batista for giving her the kidney, or maybe the reporter just threw that in.  I don’t understand what she means by “holding it over her head” — he’s probably trying to avoid being taken to the cleaners in the divorce, and understandably wants credit for the valuable gift that he gave her.

No, it’s not the most chivalrous thing in the world, but I routinely see men stripped of everything they own in divorces, between the financial division, child support, alimony, their legal fees, and paying for their ex-wives’ legal fees.  I don’t know think the laws are on Dr. Batista’s side, but at least on a moral level, his request is defensible.

He has everything in the world to be thankful for, yet happiness seems to have eluded him.

Maybe Dr. Batista is the dark, brooding man Dawnell says, but maybe he’s unhappy because he can’t see his kids, or can see them very rarely, or because, as he asserts, they have been “poisoned” against him.

Dr. Batista built himself up from nothing. A first-generation American, he put himself through Cornell Medical School and became a vascular surgeon.

Yes, and maybe he’d like to be able to keep at least a little of his hard-earned wealth after the divorce is over.

Dr. Batista appears to feel disrespected by the ordinary tugs and pulls of children’s schedules all parents deal with today. Dawnell hesitates, and her clear brown eyes well up with tears when she starts to talk about her kids.

“We have a teenaged daughter in high school, another girl who’s nearly in middle school and a boy in elementary school,” Dawnell said.

“By the grace of God, they are very active, busy, into school and sports. They have different interests, different activities. It’s hard for them to drop everything and find one block of time and one thing they all want to do together.”

Hey, doc, it’s nothing personal. We all go through it.

Dawnell’s story is certainly plausible.  On the other hand, many divorced fathers know just how “busy” kids can become when it’s their father’s time to be with them.  All of a sudden there are a spate of “dentist appointments,” “school obligations,” and “friend’s birthday parties,” and somehow it won’t do for dad to take the kids to any of these.

Dr. Batista has been known to become annoyed right after picking the kids up and returning them 15 minutes later.

Some call it a “macho” tendency. If true, it would smack of the father-as-king attitude of earlier generations, when nobody else’s wishes counted.

Of course — use the unfair stereotype of the angry, macho Latin man demanding that his servile wife cater to his every whim.  Of course, we could imply that the marriage suffered because Dawnell is a hot-tempered, furiously jealous Latin woman, but that would be “racist.”  Of course, it’s not “racist” if we throw stereotypes at Latin men.

Dr. Batista has said that before the divorce action, four years ago now, he was a “24/7” father.

I don’t know if Dr. Batista’s claim that he was a”24/7″ father is true, but given his career accomplishments, if he was anywhere close, it was quite a feat.  Now it appears that he gets to see his kids quite rarely — I don’t blame him for being angry.

To comment on this story to the New York Daily News, click here.  To write a Letter to the Editor, click here. To write to reporter Joanna Molloy, click here.

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