A Texas Family Court Judge has been barred from visiting his 10 year old daughter without his ex-wife’s supervision after a video surfaced on YouTube earlier this year that depicted the Family Court judge beating his 23 year old daughter (who was 16 at the time of the incident) with a belt. The video has garnered millions of views and has led to calls for his resignation.
This developing case highlights some important parts of modern family law. Technology has increasingly been used in custody and divorce cases. Everything from videos of abuse to proof of adultery on Facebook and other social networking sites have changed the landscape of Family Law. As more people make their personal lives public, this easily accessible information has led to more detailed accusations that might not have been taken as seriously in the past or dismissed for lack of proof. Also technology, video and audio recording in particular have been a great equalizer in divorce and custody since video and audio recordings do not lie. In a case such as this, it is hard to imagine the daughter’s accusations of abuse would have been taken very seriously without this recording. (And perhaps they were not, considering that the video is seven years old).
The case also highlights an area of custody proceedings that are different than most areas of law. In most cases, when a Judge orders a final decree, the case is over. If you sue someone, you only get one shot at it or if a District Attorney prosecutes you, he only gets to try to convict you once. With children in a custody case, you can always petition the court to change the agreement. This is because Family Law recognizes that people and circumstances change and the legal standard is the Best Interests of the Child. Divorces are messy and complicated but children’s safety is always more important than finality in divorce and custody proceedings.
– Valerie M. De Peppo-Malloy