Okay, really, you shouldn’t call your child an asshole ever. But, one Mom in New York used Facebook to insult and demean her child, who was 10 years old at the time, by calling him an “asshole” among other things. She defensively felt this was appropriate because “that’s what he is”. She thought it was important for her friends (HER friends?) to know that about her child. The Father sued for sole custody of all three of the parties’ children. Based on the Mom’s inappropriate use of social media regarding her children, her lack of insight as to the effects of her behavior on the children, as well as some allegations of physical abuse, the Judge granted the Father sole custody. The Judge also issued an order prohibiting the parents from posting any communications to or about the children on any social network site.
I’m sure there is much more to this story than just one instance of bad behavior. It sounds like, from the opinion, that the Mom was inappropriate in many ways, including physical abuse, verbal abuse, and failing to attend to the child’s health needs. So, it should come as no surprise that she lost custody. The real take-away here is that the Judge’s decision to restrict the Mom’s “freedom of expression” on social media in consideration of the best interest of the child was upheld by the appellate courts. We often think that we can say what we want, when we want, and where we want, especially if it is true (as this Mom says, it is what he is). But, when it comes to a Judge presiding over the best interest of the children, that freedom of expression can be limited. A judge can limit a parent’s ability to post on social media. A judge can limit a parent’s ability to speak disparagingly about the other parent in front of the child. A judge can limit a parent’s ability to speak to the child’s teachers, doctors, or other providers in a way that interferes with the child getting help. All of these limitations may be in a child’s best interest. And, they are not in violation of the parent’s “right” to free speech.
Read about the New York case in Neil Cahn’s blog post Here or the actual court opinion In the Matter of Melody M v. Robert M here.