On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Friday, April 12, 2013.
child custody proceedings can bring out the worst in people. I wrote an article, published in the Florida Bar Family Law Section Commentator, on the use of Facebook in divorce trials. Recently, an appellate court in Georgia upheld a trial order prohibiting parents from interacting and contacting their children through Facebook. Essentially, a court blocked posting on their Facebook accounts.
The Georgia divorce case of Lacy v. Lacy shows the conflict between our First Amendment rights to free speech and a court’s authority in child custody cases to protect children from the harmful comments and actions of their parents going through a bitter divorce dispute.
In the high conflict custody Lacy case, a trial judge prohibited the father from having any contact with his children. Specifically, the judge entered an order which:
“restrained and enjoined [the parties] from posting matters about each other or their current litigation on Facebook or other social networking sites.”
The appellate court allowed the Facebook injunction to stand, essentially disabling or blocking Mr. Lacy’s account. The appellate court found that Georgia courts had previously required parties in divorce proceedings: “to refrain from making derogatory remarks about the other before the children.”
Additionally, Georgia courts have previously found parents in contempt of court for violating court orders restraining telephone calls to the other spouse’s workplace. To the Lacy appellate court, retricting Facebook communication was not such a stretch from previous Georgia decisions.
There are three good lessons to be learned from Lacy v. Lacy.
First, the courts can prohibit you from using electronic communications in a way which can harm children. If parents in a divorce are discussing their divorce proceedings, and making derogatory and disparaging comments about each other on Facebook, there is now authority for a court to stop that kind of conduct whether it is by telephone or Facebook.
Second, posting derogatory comments about your family members on Facebook can hurt your family.
And third, it’s never a good idea to anger the judges about to decide your case. You know you’re your appeal is in trouble when the first finding of fact by the appellate court is:
“As an initial matter, we note that the father’s briefs are rife with discourteous and disparaging comments regarding the Ocmulgee Circuit judiciary in general . . . “