Month: September 2018

Custody and Free Speech

Can a judge order you not to post photos of your child on Facebook or other social media? A case out of Oklahoma shows how child custody rulings can crash into your First Amendment rights.

Custody Speech

Oklahoma: Like the Play, Only No Singing

According to reports, Sabrina Stone gave her infant son up for adoption. Shortly before the child turned two, he tragically drowned in his new family’s (the Russells’) swimming pool.

According to the Russells, Stone threatened them and their other child and other family members; she came to the funeral home and wrote her name several times in the viewing book, listing herself as “bio mother”; and she posted allegedly “stolen pictures” of the son.

The Russells then got a restraining order forbidding Stone from contacting the Russells, but also providing that, Defendant shall not post any pictures of the minor child on social media, including Facebook.

Florida Custody and Free Speech

I’ve written about free speech in family cases before. Family courts have a lot of power to protect children in custody cases. Florida courts have to balance a parent’s right of free expression against the state’s parens patriae interest in assuring the well-being of minor children.

In Florida, there was a case a in which a judge prohibited a parent from speaking Spanish to a child. A mother went from primary caregiver to only supervised visits – under the nose of a time-sharing supervisor. The trial judge also allowed her daily telephone calls with her daughter, supervised by the Father.

The Mother was Venezuelan, and because the Father did not speak Spanish, the court ordered: “Under no circumstances shall the Mother speak Spanish to the child.”

The judge was concerned about the Mother’s comments, after the Mother “whisked” the child away from the time-sharing supervisor in an earlier incident and had a “private” conversation with her in a public bathroom. She was also bipolar and convicted of two crimes.

The Second District Court of Appeals, which covers Tampa and Southwest Florida, reversed the restriction. Ordering a parent not to speak Spanish violates the freedom of speech and right to privacy.

Florida law tries to balance the burden placed on the right of free expression essential to the furtherance of the state’s interests in promoting the best interests of children.

In other words, in that balancing act, the best interests of children can be a compelling state interest justifying a restraint of a parent’s right of free speech.

Oklahoma: We’re OK you’re not.

The Oklahoma injunction covered any pictures, and when Stone posted a picture, she was arrested for violating the order, and prosecuted and convicted.

The arrest warrant was based on Stone’s posting “pictures of the deceased child on face book,” as well as “several post[s] and comments about the situation,” not on any allegations of threats, violence, or the like.

The free speech case is available at Reason here.


Hollaback Girls Mediate Custody

Singer, Gwen Stefani and her ex-husband, Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale, are trying to reduce the ‘misery’ of ‘people at war’ and mediate their child custody problems years after finalizing their divorce. But, how does a court resolve child custody disputes like this?


The Chemicals Between Us

A source tells E! News the pair are “going to mediation” because of disagreements regarding their three son’s upbringing. They don’t agree on custody and the time the kids are spending with each of them.

Since Gavin recently finished his tour with Bush and will be home more often, he wants more time with their three sons. However, the source says, “Gwen believes that she provides a consistent living environment and that the kids should be with her the majority of the time.”

“They are older now and taking their school work and activities seriously. She thinks Gavin still very much lives a rock star lifestyle and it’s in the kid’s best interest to be with her.”

More importantly, the source says, “She wants to raise the kids a certain way and it’s very challenging because Gavin has different priorities.”

The Little Things of Florida Custody

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In 2008, Florida modified its custody laws to get rid of outdated and negative terminology about divorcing parents and their children to reduce animosity.

The law did that by creating new legal concepts such as “shared parental responsibility, “parenting plan”, and “time-sharing schedule.

Shared parental responsibility, is similar to joint physical and legal custody, and is a relationship in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities. Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their children.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child. Issues relating to children’s timesharing are major decisions affecting the welfare of children. When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

For these parents, courts will want to know how long the children have lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining that continuity. Where the parents live is also very important, especially with school-age children.

Also, what are the home, school, and community records of the children, and which parent provides a consistent routine for the children, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.

Everything Zen

Following their split in 2015, the boys have spent a majority of their time with Gwen in Los Angeles while Gavin has toured with Bush and completed a brief stint as a judge on The Voice U.K.. Gavin touched on this when he talked to The Sun’s Fabulousmagazine.

“It was weird because I had to go and make a home from scratch that could compare to the great one they already have. That was the challenge for me as a dad.”

Gwen has since found love with country singer Blake Shelton, who gets on very well with the boys. The couple has even taken vacations with the children together.

The E! News article is here.


Divorce Games

Unless you’re a total noob, got hit by a ‘bolt’, or simply have ‘no-skin’, you’ve probably heard about the wildly successful computer game “Fortnite.” Like ‘football widows’ of old though, spouses who are married to “Fortnite” addicts are increasingly filing for divorce


Battle Royale

Fortnite: Battle Royale is a bright multiplayer shooter game and is now one of the biggest online games ever. How big? Many people tune in just to watch others play on streaming sites like Twitch and YouTube.

The daily mobile revenues of Fortnite has reached $2 million, and the game has generated more than $1 billion from in-app purchases alone. Fortnite has taken its creator, Epic Games, to a valuation worth up to $8 billion.

Interestingly, CNBC is reporting that at least 200 couples in the United Kingdom filed for divorce in 2018 citing addiction to online survival game “Fortnite” and other online games as one of the reasons for their parting of ways.

The Heals: Florida No Fault Divorce

I’ve written about the no-fault concept before. The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need to prove some kind of fault as grounds for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce.

In Florida, either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months before filing the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

However, fault may be considered under certain circumstances in the award of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, and determination of parental responsibility.

Storm Troopers

The 200 U.K. couples who cited “Fortnite” and other online games when they filed divorce petitions with Divorce Online still only represented a small fraction of the total number of divorce proceedings this year.

“These numbers equate to roughly 5% of the 4,665 petitions we have handled since the beginning of the year and as one of the largest filers of divorce petitions in the UK, is a pretty good indicator”

In June, the World Health Organization officially recognized “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition afflicting gamer who are lacking in control over their own gaming habits for periods of months at a time.

In these cases, the WHO says, there is “increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Roughly one-third of “Fortnite” players average between six and 10 hours of playing the game per week. That’s about average for video games overall (6.5 hours per week, according to another survey), but more than 38 percent of respondents said that they play “Fortnite” more than 11 hours per week.

Of course, “Fortnite” isn’t only being blamed for disintegrating relationships. The game has also been blamed for anything from “extremely tired” students to violent behavior in children.

The CNBC article is here.


Alimony Home Run

Major League Baseball’s Pete Rose said in court documents he’s in “poor health” as he attempts to finalize a divorce from his estranged wife, Carol Rose, so he can marry girlfriend Kiana Kim. Pete Rose is looking to score a home run by limiting his alimony exposure.


Charging the Mound

Rose filed the divorce pleading because the noted the longtime Cincinnati Reds superstar, who’s now 77, is dealing with a myriad of physical issues.

“[Rose] is currently disabled and can barely walk or travel,” the filing read. “His health is deteriorating and [he] has a heart condition and [is] on blood thinners.”

The documents seem to be in relation to establishing his income as part of the divorce. The papers say he lost two jobs in 2017, Fox Sports and Hit King, so his yearly income has dropped by more than half.

Rose says he still makes $453,000 a year according to TMZ Sports but has “great debts” and major expenses including attorney’s fees.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about alimony in Florida before. In every dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife.

There are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony. The court can also award a combination of alimony types.

Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments of alimony can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.

In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first make a determination as to whether someone like Rose’s wife has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

Once a court determines there is a need and ability to pay alimony, it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony. In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.

In Pete Rose’s case, he’s going to be putting up evidence that his age and his physical and emotional condition should be given a lot of consideration by the court in determining alimony or the amount of alimony.

Double Play

The 17-time All-Star selection, three-time World Series champion and 1973 NL MVP is going for a double play. In addition to his physical condition, Rose added he’s lost around $550,000 in annual income over the past year, bringing his yearly earnings to $453,000.

Rose is attempting to block his wife from receiving spousal support or forcing him to cover legal fees related to the divorce, by proving his financial condition does not justify it.

The Cincinnati native was banned for life in 1989 for betting on baseball. His attempt to gain reinstatement, and create a potential Hall of Fame path, was denied by commissioner Rob Manfred in 2015.

Rose was enshrined in the Reds Hall of Fame in 2016.

The Bleacher Report article is here.