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What Do You Do If You Have Overly Intrusive Parents? Sue Them, Apparently

Do you remember how your mom used to go through all your stuff when you were a kid?  How she would read through all your mail, listen in on your phone calls, and basically be completely intrusive throughout your adolescence?  No?  Well lucky you then…  For the rest of us with a normal childhood who had to suffer through this invasion of our privacy, the only conceivable option we ever thought of was… well, nothing.  Just grit your teeth, stomp up to your room, and bear through it until you were 18, or become an emancipated minor (if you were rich enough, of course).

But at least all that intrusion made you a better adult, right?  To those of you who answered “no” to that question, didn’t you wish there was some authority you could call to get your parents off your back?  Apparently there was one, we just weren’t aware of it.

Yep, apparently you can actually file criminal charges against your parents for harassment.  That’s what one 16-year-old Arkansan boy did to his mother and according to the Arkansas prosecutors, the plucky young future lawyer was perfectly within his rights to do so under Arkansas law.  The mother claims she was just being a good mom by checking up on her son Facebook page.  According to reports, she figure out her son’s password, logged into his Facebook account and read his online posts.  When she didn’t like what her son was saying online, she changed his password and locked him out.  Apparently this infuriated her son enough for him to file a harassment suit against his mom in criminal court.  That’s right, criminal court, not civil court.  That’s coooooooold.

Now this might story might seem pretty crazy to you, or at the least make for some really awkward dinner conversation with your children.  I mean, she’s the mom.  That’s what moms do, right?  Well, though children generally do have limited rights (especially in regards to their parents), depending on the state, privacy rights are usually one set of rights that aren’t limited for minors.  Really in this case, the legal question is whether the mom’s action qualifies as harassment.  In short, the answer is maybe, or at the very least it’s enough of a violation to warrant a court to decide on the matter.

Harassment statutes are generally written to be very board in magnitude, and with good reason.  An overly narrow harassment statute won’t do much in helping to protect victims from unwanted contact or disturbances, especially when those incidences can lead to placing the victim’s safety in jeopardy.  So most legislators intentionally use very vague and broad wording when they draw up harassment laws to ensure victims will get full protection under the law.  Arkansas harassment statutes are no different, in this case it reads: “a person commits the offense if he engages in conduct or repeatedly commits acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person.”

You don’t need to be a lawyer, law student, law professor, or have any legal training other than the ability to read to see that this statement can pretty much include any unwanted conduct as a form of harassment.

So what’s a mother to do?  Well, in this case if she is found guilty, the judge can impose a fine for past harm to be paid to the court or the victim along with an injunction preventing her from accessing her son’s Facebook account.  However, from what I’m told and what I’ve seen, judges generally have some leeway in their discretion for harassment cases.  And in all likelihood, rather than cause greater tension between son and mother by issuing such as order, the judge will probably just order them to family counseling.

However, to all you overbearing parents out there, whatever becomes of this case, you better think twice before you start snooping around in your children’s stuff.  And to all you kids…pssht… you can find a lawyer here.  Just joking.  Come on people.  Can’t we all just try to be a little less dysfunctional here?

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  • Victoria

    Complicating this case is the fact that the mother is not the boy’s legal guardian; his grandmother is. So does she really have the right to be in his facebook? I would say no.

  • Nick Ivie

    I’ve looked a long time for a post like this and just have one thing to say, thanks! However I do have a question: I’m 15 – can my mom take my computer or x-box away if I paid for it? If so could I be able to make her not able to? Tennessee is my state in case you need it. Oh and you said not to be so dysfunctional; however I keep everything even and treat every one equal because I was raised that way but now everyone is never going with that rule and it’s outlawed. 🙁 even mom who is nice is being unfair and saying the common I want you too as a reason when I’m simply asking why something has come into being. Can you explain this or even reply at all? I’ll be watching my e-mail the next few days. I really would like too hear from you. Any way if you don’t even still thanks for the info.

  • Andrew Dat

    @ Victoria

    I agree with you. I know kids have limited rights, but I think that from a purely human perspective, good parenting requires a person to give their kids some privacy.

    @ Nick Ivie

    Thanks for the comment Nick, always good to hear from young legal enthusiast. As far as your question goes I’m not sure of the answer as you’ll find that in the legal world there are exceptions to everything. Certainly you make a valid case that because you bought the property it is yours and typically property law in any state would confirm this right. However, because your a minor I’m not quite sure there’s much you can do about keeping your mom from taking your stuff away. You would need a person much more versed in this area of law to advise you on your rights in your particular situation. But the advice I can give you is that instead of concentrating on your legal rights with your mom, it would be a lot easier and cheaper to simply talk it out with your mom and try to figure out a way between you two on how to keep her from taking your stuff away.

    Hope that helps.

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