Family court judges are expected to adhere to the same rules of conduct that are expected of any other member of the judiciary. This includes avoiding relationships that could be interpreted as favoring a parent who is involved in a child custody case. Texas residents who have any concerns over the impartiality of a member of the court do have the right to file an appeal.
An appeals court ruled that a custody case should be returned to a lower court to be decided by another judge. A family court judge, who was presiding over a mother’s motion for a custody modification, appears to have violated the rules regarding impartiality. During the course of the case, he accepted a Facebook friend request from the woman. She sent the request after a hearing in which she reportedly shared evidence that the child’s father abused her. The judge accepted it before he made a final ruling that awarded the mother sole legal custody and primary physical custody of her son.
During the time between the friend request and the judge’s decision, the mother responded to several of the judge’s posts and shared a photo that depicted domestic violence. The judge did not disclose the connection to either the father or his attorney before issuing his decision. When questioned later about his Facebook connection to the mother, he stated that he had already decided how to rule in the case and his acceptance of the request did not play a role in his decision.
Judges are permitted to engage in social media, but they are not permitted to have any connections that could cast suspicions on their rulings. The father denied the abuse allegations. Texas parents who are unable to settle a child custody case or are concerned about the current arrangements for their child are entitled to seek the assistance of an attorney who can ensure that a child’s best interests are protected.