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Child custody disputes may hinge on forbidden words

Comedians often win laughs through clever use of certain forbidden words. While many people in Pennsylvania may hear or use those words casually, in some situations it is still deemed inappropriate or even dangerous to pepper one's conversation with words that are generally considered vulgar. In certain contexts, the use of colorful language may bring serious consequences to one's child custody rights.

Family court proceedings used to require witnesses to testify about things heard or said between disputing parents. However, these days, electronic communication seems to be the more common witness. A parent may save texts and emails to prove that the other parent is abusive or unfit. Often, those messages contain words that are deemed inappropriate. In fact, some courts consider the use of those particular words, in certain contexts, to be a form of domestic violence.

If a court finds that the language used in communications with a co-parent harasses or disturbs the peace of that parent, the parent who sent the messages may have restrictions placed on his or her rights of custody. When it comes to determining the best interests of a child, courts may not consider the use of colorful language a right of free speech. This may be especially true if the words are used to describe or threaten the parent receiving the message.

Even though comics may use vulgarity to get a laugh, child custody disputes are seldom funny. People in Pennsylvania may be surprised to learn how seriously their texts or emails are taken in family court, and how powerfully certain words may affect their rights as parents. In cases when a parent's relationship with his or her children is in dispute, contacting an attorney for advice may be the best course of action.

Source: The Huffington Post, "George Carlin, 'Dirty Words' and the Loss of Custody", Fred Silberberg, Aug. 11, 2016

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