Custody Issues with the Overparent

A forthcoming article from the UC Davis Law Review discusses the topic of "overparenting" and how this obsessive behavior is on the verge of becoming required by courts as a demonstration of being a "good" parent during a divorce.

As the article notes, the problems with some forms of parenting behavior being formalized in law is that it is far from clear that much of this behavior is in fact beneficial for the child.

Cell Phones and the Internet

Cell Phones and the internet provide parents with the ability to monitor and supervise their children's lives in ways undreamed of a few years ago. Many cell phones now have the capability to report to parents the location of their child at any time. Some can even tell the parent the speed the vehicle they are traveling in.

Parents have the ability to monitor their children's grades on a daily basis, and this "supervision" has been extended from grade schools to some colleges. The article notes of an instance where a child disputing a grade in the classroom handed the phone to the teacher and told the teacher to "speak to my Mom."

While one can complain about obsessive parents in general, an unsettling trend is observed by the authors of the article. They note that when parents are involved in a divorce, attorneys counsel them to become more "involved" in their children's lives.

The concern here is raised by the manner of the involvement. Courts demand evidence, the cell phone becomes the ideal tool for a parent to "document" their involvement with their children.

This is not necessarily a good thing. Because some courts use the past performance of parents to determine future allocations of parenting time, more is always seen as better. Parents who may have had limited involvement in a child's sports will suddenly become massively involved, to the point of overwhelming the child and the other parents, with a goal of building a large paper trail.

Georgia Code §19-9-3

Child custody in Georgia is governed by Georgia Code §19-9-3, which lists 17 factors a judge may consider in determining the best interests of the child. The factor listed in § 19-9-3(3)(J) is "Each parent's involvement, or lack thereof, in the child's educational, social, and extracurricular activities."

A judge being presented piles of paper showing cell phone records and texts would have a difficult time ignoring them. Especially if she felt the party was aggressive in pushing their objectives and would be willing to appeal a negative decision.

While trial court judges are allowed a great deal of discretion in their courtroom, they might have a hard time articulating why they ruled against a parent presenting such evidence.

Because of this, if you are facing a parent who may employ such a strategy, you want to consult with a divorce attorney who understands these types of arguments and, knows how to successfully counter this approach.