First Rule of Facebook: Don't Talk About Family Court

facebookhaveIf you thought the worst part of Facebook was hiding your status updates from your boss, beware. You could land on the wrong side of a family court judge.

The ACLU of Rhode Island announced this week it’s stepping in to help the plight of a woman ordered by a family court judge not to update her Facebook with the status of her brother’s family court proceedings.

The ACLU says it’s part of the woman’s First Amendment rights, but Michelle Langlois’ ex-sister-in-law says otherwise. She took the Facebook updates to court as evidence of being harrassed about her child custody battle.

The case is an interesting one for free speech watchdog groups, but it’s even more interesting for families. Family court is traditionally a closed setting, but what is to stop anyone in a family from discussing the issues at hand outside the doors of the court? After all, if you’re battling for your kids, aren’t you going to talk it over with your family? Our kids are supposed to be the most important people in our lives, and that would make this topic number one for dinner table conversation.

The problem is when those closed door proceedings go too far beyond the doors of the court – like to the wide-open world of Facebook status reports.

The final results of a child custody case aren’t that private. It’s rather obvious WHO the kids are living with and when. But how that decision was made by a judge is supposed to remain that way – and not just for the sake of the parents. The kids don’t need to hear their parents’ faults and fights retold by everyone they know.

And chances are, some adult in the know is going to let something slip – whether it’s in front of one of Langlois’ brother’s kids or in front of their own kids, who is going to throw it in the face of those kids. Just ask any adopted kid you know who found out from a kid on the bus that they were adopted. Adults with gossip often forget about little pitchers.

As a reporter, I’m highly dependent on the right to free speech, and I’d support the ACLU in its fight to protect Langlois’ rights. But just because you have the right doesn’t mean you have to use it!

As an aunt, isn’t it her responsibility to step back a moment and give her brothers’ kids a chance at some privacy?

Where would you draw the line?


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