Question: While I was with my Mom at her boyfriend's house in CA, my friend and I walked in on them watching porn in the living room. They didn't hear us come in so she doesn't know that I know. I told my Dad and he is trying to decide how to handle this. I want to know (and so does my Dad) if this is reason enough for my Dad to get sole custody. Now they both have joint physical custody. Has a crime been commited and how will the courts view this event? Thank you.
This question leaves out a number of important facts that I would need in order to answer your question with absolute certainty:
1. How old are you?
2. How old is your friend?
3. What was the nature of the pornography (child vs. adult)?
4. Did your mother or her boyfriend encourage you to watch it once you stumbled into the room, act with indifference, or shoo you away immediately?
5. Has this happened before?
6. If so, did you ask your mother not to allow it?
7. Has the custody judge ever ordered the parents not to possess these materials in their homes while the children are present?
8. Was the custody decree issued by a CA or AZ court?
These questions are important because you may be asking questions that only a California lawyer can answer. For example, an Arizona attorney (like me!) cannot ethically advise you as to what the CA laws say about child pornography - either in the criminal sense, or its effect on child custody. So if this occurred in CA, and a CA court issued the custody decree, too, then you would need to aim your question at an attorney who is licensed to practice law in CA.
On the assumption that this was an AZ custody decree, however (and without having answers to the questions I rattled off above), I wonder whether this incident alone would justify stripping your mother of her custody rights - especially if she did not invite your intrusion into the living room, the pornography in question depicted only adults, and you are relatively old (high school vs. elementary school). Generally, mere possession of adult pornography (i.e. videos, magazines, Internet content) is not illegal in the State of Arizona - or, for that matter, in most other states either. Many people find it distasteful and immoral. Others don't seem to mind. But that is a different question from whether its simple possession or viewing renders a parent unfit to raise a child. Unfitness usually derives from substance abuse or addiction, domestic violence, criminal activity or child neglect.
Certainly, no matter what a person thinks about pornography in general, one could describe your mother and her boyfriend as indiscreet and insensitive. I do not approve of their decision to display this material in such potential plain view of children. Moreover, if you express your displeasure to her (making it clear how upsetting this is to you), and the conduct continues, you could perhaps ask the court to intervene at *that* point.
In the meantime, if this is bothering you a lot, perhaps you could ask your father to ask for the appointment of a parenting coordinator - someone who could serve as an intermediary between your parents and discuss visitation issues like this. As another alternative, especially if the case ends up back in court, you could ask the judge to appoint a "children's attorney" under Family Law Rule 10(A)(1)(b). This lawyer would be answerable only to you, and represent your opinions and desires in court.
December 26, 2006