<body><!-- --><div id="b-navbar"><a href="http://www.blogger.com/" id="b-logo" title="Go to Blogger.com"><img src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/logobar.gif" alt="Blogger" width="80" height="24" /></a><div id="b-sms" class="b-mobile"><a href="sms:?body=Hi%2C%20check%20out%20Knight%20on%20Family%20Law%20-%20Tennessee%20Family%20Law%20Blog%20-%20Tennessee%20Divorce%20Law%20Blog%20at%20knightonfamilylaw.com">Send As SMS</a></div><form id="b-search" name="b-search" action="http://search.blogger.com/"><div id="b-more"><a href="http://www.blogger.com/" id="b-getorpost"><img src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/btn_getblog.gif" alt="Get your own blog" width="112" height="15" /></a><a href="http://www.blogger.com/redirect/next_blog.pyra?navBar=true" id="b-next"><img src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/btn_nextblog.gif" alt="Next blog" width="72" height="15" /></a></div><div id="b-this"><input type="text" id="b-query" name="as_q" /><input type="hidden" name="ie" value="UTF-8" /><input type="hidden" name="ui" value="blg" /><input type="hidden" name="bl_url" value="knightonfamilylaw.com" /><input type="image" src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/btn_search_this.gif" alt="Search This Blog" id="b-searchbtn" title="Search this blog with Google Blog Search" onclick="document.forms['b-search'].bl_url.value='knightonfamilylaw.com'" /><input type="image" src="http://www.blogger.com/img/navbar/1/btn_search_all.gif" alt="Search All Blogs" value="Search" id="b-searchallbtn" title="Search all blogs with Google Blog Search" onclick="document.forms['b-search'].bl_url.value=''" /><a href="javascript:BlogThis();" id="b-blogthis">BlogThis!</a></div></form></div><script type="text/javascript"><!-- function BlogThis() {Q='';x=document;y=window;if(x.selection) {Q=x.selection.createRange().text;} else if (y.getSelection) { Q=y.getSelection();} else if (x.getSelection) { Q=x.getSelection();}popw = y.open('http://www.blogger.com/blog_this.pyra?t=' + escape(Q) + '&u=' + escape(location.href) + '&n=' + escape(document.title),'bloggerForm','scrollbars=no,width=475,height=300,top=175,left=75,status=yes,resizable=yes');void(0);} function blogspotInit() {} --></script><script type="text/javascript"> blogspotInit();</script><div id="space-for-ie"></div>

Monday, May 23, 2005

Prudence or Prudery

In the recent case Petty v. Petty, the Tennessee Court of Appeals considered whether a father’s “penchant for pornography” justified (1) requiring that his overnight visits be supervised and (2) giving the mother sole authority to make major decisions for the children. The Court of Appeals determined that the trial court’s decision was not justified.

The Loudon County Chancery Court found that the father had a penchant for pornography based upon the following facts: he made late-night visits to adult web sites, he exchanged email of a sexual nature, and he placed a personal advertisement on SexyAds.com. The trial court therefore restricted the father’s overnight visits with his children to supervised visits at the paternal grandparents’ home. The trial court indicated that this restriction would continue until the father could convince the court that the father had stopped visiting adult web sites.

The Court of Appeals conceded that the father’s time could have been better spent pursuing other activities, but it found no evidence that the conduct had affected the father’s relationship with the children or exposed the children to pornography. The court therefore remanded the case with instructions that the restrictions be removed.

This case highlights two disturbing aspects of divorce litigation. First, judges too often seem to rate parents on a single scale from “good” to “bad” without considering the complexities that go into each individual’s personality. This tendency encourages pure mudslinging, where each side submits evidence of the other parent’s every failing and character flaw. Second, judges sometimes seem to use their control over custody issues to impose their personal moral views upon the litigants: no overnight visits with boyfriends or girlfriends, no Internet pornography, no bad language.

Although it is not always easy to draw the line, the Petty case is well on the other side. A father’s interest in Internet pornography – or even in casual sex with strangers – does not make him a danger to his children. And a court should not use its power over child custody to regulate a parent’s private sexual conduct.