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.

 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.