Free Speech and Custody: Laws in Custody Issues

In this day and age of 24-hour news cycles, numerous social media platforms, and constant contact with audiences near and far, the ability to broadcast a message, good or bad, to the world is nearly unfettered. While an individual’s right to free speech has long been held as one of the strongest constitutional rights in this country, when that right comes into conflict with the rights of a child in a custody matter, where do we draw the line? How far do we permit a parent’s right to free speech to encroach upon the best interests of a child? Pennsylvania courts have recently grappled with these questions. They have begun to establish boundaries on a parent’s right to free speech when that speech presents potential harm to the children involved.

The First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits Congress from enacting any law “abridging the freedom of speech,” US Const. amend. I, which clause is applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. This fundamental right, although not absolute, precludes the government from restricting or limiting an individual’s speech or expression because of the message, ideas, subject matter or content of that message. See Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 US 92 , 95 (1972).

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