Consider Patton v Patton, an Oakland County case, unpublished. The opinion was released yesterday, March 18, 2014. Defendant Father appealed the trial court's modification of 50/50 joint custody. After trial, Plaintiff Mother was awarded sole legal and sole physical custody of the parties' 16-year-old minor child.
1) The trial court, after one day of trial, appointed a legal as GAL. The issues on appeal were whether she was a GAL or an LGAL and the scope of her appointment.
2) Challenges to the trial court's analysis of the best interest factors. One addressed the conclusion that Mother prevailed on the factor of "moral fitness." Since lack of moral fitness is often raised today in scorched earth family law litigation, to the benefit of no one, usually, it's a good idea to take a look at this again. In Patton, the COA stated:
This factor is credited to mother. Although the parties have been divorced
for over three years, Father continues to be very angry about Mother’s alleged
behaviors during the marriage. However, these best interest factors evaluate the
parties’ fitness as a parent. Mother did testify to allowing her boyfriend to spend
the night on one occasion, which is the only verified incident since the marriage
ended. However, Father’s behavior continues to call into question his moral
fitness. Mother admitted evidence of text messages in which Father used vile,
offensive, and racist language directed at Mother. Father addressed letters to
Mother’s home where the children reside calling her offensive names and sent
letters to third parties, including the children’s dentist, describing her alleged
misdeeds against Father. Mother testified that Father still continues to call her
derogatory names in the presence of the children during parenting time
In this digital age, letting loose with digital messages (emails, text messages) or even letters disseminating information to third parties happens far too often in custody and parenting time matters. When are they going to learn? Facebook, MySpace and other intrusions upon privacy . . . private facts that can be published far and wide . . . publications that the children can see . . .
Patton is but one reminder that as practicing family lawyers we need to impress upon our clients a need to be mindful of potential for tort liability for invasion of privacy, for slander or libel. A series of blog posts on liability issues may be accessed here on this blog.
Patton v Patton may be read here. Download Patton v Patton