Anderson Cooper, the journalist, is the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, the multi millionairess. Little Gloria was only 10 when she was the unwilling center of the nation’s biggest child custody suit1, in 1934. As with many “trials of the century,” the Vanderbilt child custody battle had everything: sex, money, lesbian sex, all-night parties, extramarital sex, liquor, wild sex, and exotic travel. And sex. The trial is also a neat compendium of doing absolutely everything wrong in a child custody case.

Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt Versus Reality

Nobody could fault Gloria Vanderbilt’s mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, for being a little weird. At age 17 she married one of the Vanderbilts, a family known to have fabulous wealth. Teenager Gloria hitched herself to 42-year-old Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt (no, that is not a movie character’s name; he really was Reggie Claypoole Vanderbilt, old bean) and in quick succession popped out Little Gloria. Reggie died the year after Little Gloria was born, leaving Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt with … his huge debts. Claypoole had squandered $15.5 million in a time when most families got by on $1,700 a year. Big and Little Glorias had to “get by” on interest from Little Gloria’s $2.5 million trust fund.

Big Gloria went a bit nuts, running off to Europe and leaving Little Gloria in the care of her live-in nurse. She drank to excess; she slept her way through all the great cities and all the great courts of European kingdoms, duchies and baronies; she gambled and shopped from Monte Carlo to Biarritz. Most salacious to the newspapers of the time, she got down and dirty with Lady Milford Haven, the daughter of a Russian grand duke, who happened to be married to a Mountbatten, cousin to the king of England.

None of that would have mattered a whit if Big Gloria had not ticked off her sister-in-law, Gertrude Whitney, who swooped in to challenge Big Gloria for custody of Little Gloria. She and her attorneys coached Little Gloria so that, when interviewed by Judge John Carew, she exploded with tales of terror and loathing against her own mother. The judge gave Little Gloria to Aunt Gertrude. Little Gloria is still with us as of the date of this writing, married four times and a chipper 93.

Many, Many Mistakes Were Made in this Custody Case … Let Us Enumerate

Please do allow us to point out the series of nine boffo blunders and hooch-crazed custody flopperoos embedded in this sad tale:

  1. Showing Poor Judgment — If you know your every move, comment and relationship will be exposed and brought up in court, keep yourself scrupulously clean; always question your next action by considering how it shows you as a parent, and how it benefits your children
  2. Rein in Expenses — Big Gloria was ripping through Little Gloria’s trust money at a blistering pace; you need to keep a lid on expenses, avoid buying self-indulgent nonsense, and demonstrate instead that you are a fit and financially fine father
  3. Run-ins — Avoid legal tangles if you are hoping to gain custody of your children; live as dull a life as you possibly can, and stay out of trouble with the coppers, see
  4. Lips That Touch — If you know you have a tendency to overindulge, just stay away from alcohol altogether during your child custody case; do we need to tell you to steer completely clear of illegal drugs, too? Remember, you can lose your job, your income, and your fitness as a parent with one bad drug screening
  5. Emotion — You love your kids; but so does your ex-wife, and the two of you cannot turn your child custody fight into a knock-down, drag-out emotional melodrama; Control your reactions, gauge your emotions, and work quietly for the long gain rather than the short but gratifying big outburst
  6. Making Your Case All About You — Big Gloria clearly liked being the center of attention; you may, too, but this is about your children, not you; yes, you are being judged as a fit or unfit parent; your needs are completely secondary to what is in the best interest of your children
  7. Exposure or Neglect — Either letting your children see too much or not enough of you and your “friends” is bad form, and bad parenting; keep your version of Lady Milford Haven elsewhere and think of what little ears and eyes pick up; and — in case you are wealthy like a Vanderbilt — never abandon your kids to the live-in nurse
  8. Letting Others Control the Message — Big Gloria may have been a party girl, but she was also not accustomed to the world stage; she let Gertrude and her team control what the public (and judge) heard and saw; never leave all the heavy lifting to your attorney, and make a point of getting all your positive attributes out into the courtroom conversation
  9. Let Your Children Speak — Big Gloria could not prevent Little Gloria from talking to Judge Carew, but she could have prevented Aunty Gertrude from setting the kid up with rehearsed lines, if she only took the time to get to know her own daughter; keep up ongoing, natural dialogues with all your children so you know what they are thinking and are likely to say, and encourage them to speak from the heart if they are asked to speak in court

Let the Custody Attorneys for Men Help

We could not help Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt in 1934, and we will always regret that (no we won’t — we weren’t even around then). We can help you, however, fight to win your child custody battle. Begin by calling The Firm for Men’s Virginia Beach office at 757-383-9184. We can prevent you from making blunders big and small, and advise you against steaming off to cocktails in Cannes when you need to be sharing cocoa and cookies in Chesapeake.


child custody and visitation lawyer