Don’t let your kids become pinball wizards

Posted Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Child Custody, Legislation, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, South Carolina Specific

I have no desire to mine the legislative history to determine when and why some South Carolina legislator decided he needed to save our state’s youth from the evils of pinball. Whatever fears led to the enactment of S.C. Code § 63-19-2430–a model of simplicity which states, “It is unlawful for a minor under the age of eighteen to play a pinball machine”–have long since proven unfounded. Yet, as conservatives love to note, once the government obtains a power–in this instance, the power to criminalize pinball–it seldom relinquishes that power. Sadly, this observation rarely leads conservatives to take a hatchet to the portions of our criminal code that prohibit pleasures the bluenoses consider unproductive or immoral. Thus, this pinball prohibition remains.

This archaic statute’s existence creates an opportunity for family court mischief for those so inclined, as it is a useful testing device to challenge the family court aphorism that it’s a behavior’s unlawfulness, and not its immorality, that compels some custody decisions. This aphorism is used to justify supervising the visitation of a once-a-week marijuana-smoking dad, while seeming indifferent to mom’s half-bottle-of-wine-a-night habit. It justifies taking custody from living-in-sin mom and placing the children with dad and his fourth wife. If such illegal parental behavior compels these results, how much worse are the scofflaw parents who allow their children to play the demon pinball (thus turning the child him or herself into a criminal)?

The next time at trial, when an opposing party complains about my client’s illegal behavior in the context of a custody case, I intend to cross-examine, “and do you allow your child to play pinball?,” with a copy of § 63-19-2430 handy when I encounter a relevance objection. But only if I really like or really hate the presiding judge.

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