Recently, the Minnesota Court of Appeals was asked to consider whether a Family Court judge can prohibit a parent from featuring or mentioning his children in YouTube videos and remove all such videos that had already been posted on his YouTube channel.
In Winkowski v. Winkowski, the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined that a Family Court Judge did have the authority to impose such restrictions on a parent’s free speech rights. The Court looked at the authority granted to district courts by the Minnesota Legislature, Minn. Stat. §518.175 subd. 1(a) which allows a court to impose limits on all aspects of parenting time based on the best interests of the children; a compelling state interest which justified the infringement a parent’s constitutional rights.
The Court also looked at other examples of a court placing limits on a parent’s constitutional rights to serve the best interests of the children, including:
- limiting a parent’s First Amendment freedom to exercise religion by prohibiting a father from exposing the child to a new religion (Sina v Sina, 402 N.W.2d 573, 576 (Minn. Ct. App. 1987);
- limiting a parent’s First Amendment freedom of speech by prohibiting the parent from publishing photos of his children (Geske v. Marcolina, 642 N.W.2d 62, 70) (Minn. Ct. App. 2002);
- limiting a parent’s First Amendment freedom of conscience by ordering the parent to undergo a psychological evaluation (Newstrad v. Arend, 869 N.W.2d 681, 690 (Minn. Ct. App. 2015).
Just as a court can order a parent to attend therapy or refrain from consuming alcohol during parenting time, Olson v. Olson, 534 N.W.2d 547, 550 (Minn. 1995); Clark v. Clark, 346 N.W.2d 383, 385 (Minn. Ct. App. 1984), limiting a parent’s right to free speech is within the Court’s authority.
In cases where parents are subject to court-ordered parenting time and use of a child’s image on social media is raised, parents should be cautioned that they may be subject to Court scrutiny. Seeking competent legal counsel is always recommended.
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