Damning Woody Allen Details In 1993 Child Custody Decision (Part One)

It’s been more than 20 years since the bitter split between Mia Farrow and Woody Allen.  But contrary to the cliché, time hasn’t healed all wounds.  In fact, the hurt is even stronger now.

When Allen won an unprestigious lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes last month (longtime friend and former ex Diane Keaton accepted in his predictable absence), his estranged son Ronan Farrow (an MSNBC broadcaster) tweeted the following the night of the broadcast:

“Missed the Woody Allen tribute – did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?”

The seven-year-old he’s referring to is his sister Dylan Farrow, the now 28-year-old writer who was first publicly interviewed about her childhood trauma for a Vanity Fair article late last year.  Recently, however, she wrote an absolutely devastating firsthand account of what happened to her on the blog of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.  It is one of the most powerful pieces of writing I’ve ever read.

Since its publication online, the story has attracted major media attention and fierce debate.  (Her Vanity Fair comments were curiously ignored.)  Dylan’s words cut so deep Allen offered a pathetic, unapologetic, misleading rebuttal in the Times himselfShe responded exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter.

Now that she has officially transformed herself from a victim into an outspoken survivor hoping to inspire others to own their own harrowing, traumatic experiences publicly like she has, it’s important to know the history of this story.

There’s no better way to do so than by reading this, a June 7, 1993 New York Supreme Court decision that concluded the brutal, months-long custody battle between Allen and Mia Farrow over three of their kids.  Revealed in these 33 pages is a Woody Allen that will shock you, disappoint you and ultimately infuriate you.  Here are the most damning details:

1. In the first five years of their courtship, Allen wanted nothing to do with Mia’s children, including newborn Moses, who was adopted shortly before they started dating.  During this period, they had “virtually a single person’s relationship” as they maintained separate residences.  (Weirdly, they never cohabitated during their 12 years together.)  According to the late New York Supreme Court Justice Elliott Wilk who wrote the decision (he died in 2002), Allen viewed them as an “encumbrance.  He had no involvement with them and no interest in them.”

2. “In 1984, Ms. Farrow expressed a desire to have a child with Mr. Allen.  He resisted, fearing that a young child would reduce the time that they had available for each other.  Only after Ms. Farrow promised that the child would live with her and that Mr. Allen need not be involved with the child’s care or upbringing, did he agree.”  Justice Wilk goes on to say that Allen’s support for this was “lukewarm”.

3. After half a year of failed attempts at conception, Farrow instead adopted a newborn girl she named Dylan in 1985.  “Mr. Allen chose not to participate in the adoption and Ms. Farrow was the sole adoptive parent.”

4. “Mr. Allen’s attitude toward Dylan changed a few months after the adoption.”  He started visiting her at Mia’s apartment during “some mornings and evenings” as well as Mia’s “country home in Connecticut”.  He also “accompanied the Farrow-Previn family on extended vacations to Europe in 1987, 1988 and 1989.  He remained aloof from Ms. Farrow’s other children except for Moses, to whom he was cordial.”

5. After Mia became pregnant with son Satchel in 1986, “Mr. Allen did not touch her stomach, listen to the fetus, or try to feel it kick.”  He “had shown no interest in her pregnancy”.  According to Mia, he was also “squeamish about the delivery process” so she enlisted a friend to become her Lamaze coach.

6. Early on in her pregnancy, Mia “began to withdraw from Mr. Allen”, and after Satchel’s birth in late 1987, “she grew more distant” from him.  As she tended to her new son’s needs, Dylan got less attention from her.  As a result, “Mr. Allen began to spend more time with Dylan and to intensify his relationship with her.”

7. “During a trip to Paris, when Dylan was between two and three years old, Ms. Farrow told Mr. Allen that ‘[y]ou look at her [Dylan] in a sexual way.  You fondled her.  It’s not natural.  You’re all over her.  You don’t give her any breathing room.  You look at her when she’s naked.'”

8. Allen would spend “play-time in bed with her, by…reading to her in his bed while dressed in his undershorts, and by his permitting her to suck on his thumb”.

9. According to Mia, “Mr. Allen was overly attentive and demanding of Dylan’s time and attention.  He was aggressively affectionate, providing her with little space of her own and with no respect for the integrity of her body.” Four different witnesses, including Mia herself, “testified that Mr. Allen focused on Dylan to the exclusion of her siblings, even when Satchel and Moses were present”.

10. In 1990, in the midst of “evaluat[ing] Dylan to determine if she needed therapy”, Mia “expressed her concern to Dr. [Susan] Coates[, a clinical psychologist,] that Mr. Allen’s behaviour with Dylan was not appropriate”.  Dr. Coates later described Allen’s relationship with Dylan as “inappropriately intense because it excluded everybody else, and it placed a demand on a child for a kind of acknowledgment that I felt should not be placed on a child”.  She recommended therapy for Dylan by referring her to another psychologist (sessions began in 1991) and tried to explain to Allen herself  “that his behaviour with Dylan was inappropriate and…had to be modified”.

11. When Mia was eager to adopt another child in 1991, Allen was worried their increasingly distant relationship would result in her “discontinu[ing] his access to Dylan”.  They came to an agreement.  She would “sponsor his adoption of Dylan and Moses” while pursuing her additional adoption as planned and “he would not take Dylan for sleep-overs…unless I was there.  And that if, God forbid, anything should happen to our relationship, that he would never seek custody”.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 9, 2014
1:18 a.m.

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Published in: on February 9, 2014 at 1:18 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] eight pieces about it:  Damaging Woody Allen Details From A 1997 Connecticut Magazine Article, the three-part series Damning Woody Allen Details In 1993 Child Custody Decision and the four-part series […]


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