Court Approves Service Of Complaint Via Facebook, No Word On How Many “Likes” It Received

     by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)

Facebook (pd)Facebook is useful for a lot of things — humble bragging about your children, posting professionally taken candid photographs of your smiling family, announcing your engagement/marriage/pregnancy/baby's gender to several hundred of your closest friends, etc. In K.A. v. J.L., a New Jersey court added another item to this list. After observing that courts in other jurisdictions were almost evenly split on the issue, the court allowed plaintiffs in that case to serve defendant via Facebook. (When it researched the issue, I assume the court reviewed one of my prior posts about two New York courts that also allowed service via Facebook.)

K.A. involved very unusual facts. Plaintiffs sued defendant to "enjoin defendant from holding himself out as the father of their [adopted] son." Defendant, who was not the son's biological father of record, sent the son a friend request over Facebook. The son declined. Defendant then reached out to the son over Instagram, claiming that he was the son's biological father. Defendant allegedly informed the son that he knew where the son was born, and disclosed both the identity of the son's birth mother and that the son had "biological siblings at large." (Plaintiffs allege that defendant also sent a Facebook friend request to the son's sister, who, like the son, declined the invite.) Defendant also "incorporated a picture of [the son] into an image comprised of three separate photographs, each featuring a different person," and purportedly claimed that the collage was a picture of his children. Defendant shared this picture with the public on his Facebook account. Plaintiffs believe defendant obtained the image of the son from the son's Facebook account.

Plaintiffs claimed that defendant was a "complete stranger to them," and that they had no contact with him prior to the events that led to the litigation.  Plaintiffs' counsel attempted to serve cease and desist letters on defendant at his last known address via certified and regular mail. The certified letters were returned as unclaimed, but the letters sent by regular mail were never returned. Plaintiffs then sued, seeking an injunction preventing defendant from contacting their son or claiming to be his father. They sought permission from the court to serve the complaint on defendant via Facebook.

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“This case concerns the Court’s authority to fulfill a Child’s request to hug and see her Father”

Father and daughter
So begins a recent decision from the Family Part, and it only tugs at your heart strings more as you read the rest of the opinion. I will not attempt to describe the court's decision in R.R. v. L.A.C. because I could not improve on the court's succinct and poignant recitation of this sad, then even more sad, then touching, and finally hopeful story of a broken family that is (hopefully) on its way to being repaired. The opinion is short and worth reading (but be forewarned, if you are prone to tears, then you should have tissues handy when you do).

Clark W. Griswold Would Be Proud: Citing Importance Of Summer Vacations, Family Part Permits Parent To Take Child Abroad

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)

I loved the movie National Lampoon's Vacation as a kid but I did not truly appreciate it until I had children of my own and experienced family vacations from the parent perspective. This perspective may have been most eloquently summarized by Clark W. Griswold when he finally snaps near the end of his family's journey to Wally World:

I think you're all [expletive deleted] in the head. We're ten hours from the [expletive deleted] fun park and you want to bail out. Well I'll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun. You're gonna have fun, and I'm gonna have fun . . . We're all gonna have so much [expletive deleted] fun we're gonna need plastic surgery to remove our [expletive deleted] smiles! You'll be whistling 'Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah' out of your [expletive deleted]! I must be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy [expletive deleted]!

[For a similar take on family vacations, you can also check out Louis CK who describes his personal "vacation" as the few seconds he gets between closing the door on one side of the car and walking around to the driver's side before getting in and starting the real "vacation."]

I was reminded of these, admittedly cynical, impressions of family vacations when I read a recent decision, Lang v. Lang, from the Family Part. In that case, divorced parents fought over whether the mother could take their six-year-old son to Holland for the summer. Sprinkled throughout the court's opinion were descriptions of the importance of family vacations, including the following:

Vacations provide highly unique and valuable opportunities for a child to bond with parents and other family members, while creating highly positive and lasting  memories. The entire point of vacation travel is for adults and children alike to enjoy a invigorating break from the tedium of everyday schedules and responsibilities, and to mentally relax and rejuvenate by journeying to new  destinations, experiencing new sights and adventures, and simply enjoying themselves in as carefree a manner as possible.

The court obviously has fonder memories of family vacations than I do. I remember turning blue while driving through the safari at Six Flags in a Dodge Dart with the windows closed and no air conditioning. Nothing too invigorating about that.

 

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Are You A Bad Parent If You Take Your Child To A Pink Concert?

 by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)

This was, literally, the question before a Law Division judge in Zoe v. Zoe. In that case, the parents of an eleven-year-old girl were in the midst of ongoing litigation over physical custody of their child when the mother took her daughter to a Pink concert at the Prudential Center. The father claimed that the mother abused her parental discretion by doing so because the concert was not age appropriate. Specifically, the father claimed that there was profanity in some of Pink’s songs and that the concert included sexually suggestive themes and dance performances. He claimed that if he had been at the concert with his daughter, he would have walked her out rather than let her stay.

The court rejected the father’s claims and held instead that: (1) after divorce, each parent has a right to exercise reasonable parental discretion over a child’s activities; (2) after divorce, each parent has a constitutional right to exercise reasonable parental discretion in introducing and exposing their child to the creative arts; (3) the court will generally not interfere with decisions made by parents that are consistent with these rights; and (4) the decision by the mother in Zoe was a reasonable and appropriate exercise of her rights.

 

 

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