As both a criminal law and a family law professor, I have been following the developments in the Britney Spears custody saga with interest (solely for professional reasons, of course). It never ceases to amaze me how there is this unending parade of troubled celebrities willing to provide me with great material for classroom discussions. The development that particularly struck me today was her lawyer’s assertion that she temporarily lost custody simply for her failure to take a drug test and get a CA driver’s license. Several of the folks I have talked to have expressed bewilderment that she would not comply with these very simple steps mandated by the court when the custody of her children is at stake. Sadly, I think this another example of a phenomenon that I’ve been writing about — that we tend to romanticize the parent-child relationship and assume that parents will generally do right by their children without court intervention. As I wrote in an article that appeared in the Northwestern University Law Review last year, ” we desperately want to believe that all parents are good and loving individuals whose lives revolve around their children and who always act in their children’s best interest.” Britney Spears is yet another example of why we should have a conversation about whether the law’s reliance on that assumption makes sense. For whatever reason — mental illness, drug use, immaturity, a need for attention, an unconscious desire to be free of the burdens of parenthood — Britney at this point in her life is unable to put the needs of her children first. Unfortunately, she is not the only parent in that position. These are incredibly complicated and painful questions, to be sure, with no quick or easy answers. But I think that it is a conversation worth having.