Child custody is fraught with emotion even when the parents are amicable and can agree upon most issues relative to their children. When you add in social media, an already emotional situation can often become combustible. Statistics show that in most child custody disputes, social media is playing a larger and larger role with parents attempting to use pictures, postings, comments and messages in an effort to demonstrate that the other parent is “unfit”.
The temptation to use social media to garner sympathy in a custody situation can be overwhelming. Invariably, however, it is best to avoid social media websites as a forum to discuss custody issues pertaining to your children or your frustration with the other parent. It is routine for family law attorneys to instruct a parent to monitor the other parent’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (or other social media accounts) for evidence to be used in custody and/or divorce proceedings. In the context of a custody proceeding, evidence from social media websites have been used to demonstrate a parent’s lack of responsibility toward the children, drinking habits (or use of illicit substances), inability to parent the children appropriately and/or inappropriate personal relationships that are potentially detrimental to the children.
Some helpful tips include:
- Assume your social media accounts are being monitored by the other parent or someone close to that parent for purposes of any upcoming hearing on the custody issues.
- Social media sites, even if you use the privacy settings, are pseudo-public. The comments, messages, pictures and information you post is available to the public in some respects. If it is not something that you would not want everyone in the world to see, then do not post it!
- Never, ever post anything while in the midst of an argument with the other parent. Wait until you have calmed down. Otherwise, angry, negative, disparaging or hurtful posts can be used against you at the time of a custody hearing to demonstrate that you are not a suitable parent. If you have to stop and think about whether you should post a picture or a comment, chances are the comment and/or picture is inappropriate and you should avoid the urge to post it.
- If you cannot avoid Facebook or other social media drama, deactivate your account and stay away from it altogether.
- Share only positive information.
- Do not post cryptic comments or “status updates”. Such vague comments and postings will always be mischaracterized or misconstrued to make you look like you are unsuitable for the children.
- Do not post comments about the other parent or that parent’s family. Do not post comments about the Judge involved in your case or the other parent’s attorney. These comments will only be problematic if presented to the Court as evidence.
- You also need to be careful about deleting posts, pictures and/or comments from your social media accounts. Some Courts have taken the position that this constitutes the destruction of evidence, which could result in additional problems for the parent who posted derogatory or inappropriate status updates, pictures and/or comments.
- Most social media sites allow you to “like” various celebrities, companies, products or other things that reflect an individual’s personal tastes and/or interests. You need to be careful about expressing such personal tastes and/or interests through “liking” celebrities, companies, products or otherwise or the end result could be a poor reflection on your parenting.
- Instruct all of your “friends” and/or other connections on social media sites to refrain from making negative comments about the other parent, the other parent’s spouse and/or family and to refrain from “tagging” you in photos that could be detrimental to your custody case.
Social media has forever changed the way we interact with one another. However, social media need not become ammunition to be used against you in divorce and/or custody proceedings if you follow the cardinal rule of considering the potential impact of your post, picture (including photos in which you are tagged), comment BEFORE the post is made or the picture is out there for all to see, particularly if you are involved in any legal proceedings related to the custody of your children and/or divorce proceedings.