Social Media, Divorce and Child Custody

January 12, 2024by Adam Sacks

Navigating the process of divorce and child custody. Here are a few key points to remember about social media.

 

How Social Media Impacts Your Child Custody Case

One of the key factors that courts consider when making custody decisions is the child’s best interests. This means that any behavior or evidence that may be detrimental to the child’s well-being can strongly influence the court’s decision. Social media can provide this evidence, revealing a parent’s lifestyle choices, behavior patterns, or parenting skills.

A parent involved in a custody case who frequently posts photos of themselves partying, engaging in reckless conduct, or using illegal substances may find these images used against them in court. Even seemingly innocent posts can be misconstrued or taken out of context, causing unintended consequences.

Social media can have an impact on a parent’s credibility. In custody cases, parties are often required to provide accurate and honest information about their personal lives, finances, and parenting abilities. If a parent’s social media presence contradicts the statements they make in court, it can call their credibility into question, potentially affecting the court’s perception of their ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child.

Social media can also impact the co-parenting relationship. Frustrations, disagreements, or inappropriate comments exchanged on public platforms can negatively affect the collaborative efforts between the parents and impact the child’s overall well-being. Exercise caution and practice healthy communication, especially in sensitive situations like child custody cases.

Be mindful of the content shared online; consider the possible consequences of posts, photos, or comments before sharing them with the public.

 

Best Practices on Social Media During Custody Cases

Limit your social media presence: Consider temporarily deactivating or limiting your social media accounts during the duration of your custody case. By disconnecting from social media, you can prevent yourself from unintentionally posting content that could be used against you in court.

Think before you post: Before sharing any content on social media, carefully consider the potential consequences. Keep in mind that anything you post can be scrutinized and presented as evidence in court. Ask yourself whether the content portrays you as a responsible and capable parent. [1]

Adjust privacy settings: Take the time to review and adjust your privacy settings on all social media platforms. Limit access to your profiles and posts to trusted individuals only. This will help ensure that only those who genuinely know you and your situation can view your content.

Avoid discussing the case online: Refrain from discussing the details of your custody case on social media. This includes avoiding any negative or derogatory comments about your ex-spouse or their family. Engaging in online arguments or venting frustrations can harm your chances of securing a favorable custody arrangement.

Monitor your online presence: Regularly search your name and check your social media profiles from an outsider’s perspective. Look for any posts, photos, or tags that could be misinterpreted or used against you. If you find any content that may be detrimental to your case, take steps to remove or modify it.

Maintain a positive online image: Showcasing a responsible and loving side of yourself on social media can positively influence the court’s perception of your parenting abilities. Share posts that highlight your involvement in your child’s life, such as attending school events, family outings, or engaging in educational activities.

Seek professional guidance: If you are unsure about the impact of your social media activity on your custody case, consult with your attorney. They can provide you with specific guidelines and advice tailored to your situation.

Eighty-one percent of U.S. lawyers use Facebook as their primary social media platform to gather evidence in divorce cases. [2]

Best Practices on Social Media During Custody Cases

 

Important Things to Remember about Social Media with Divorce and Child Custody

Perception matters: Remember that everything you post reflects your character and can influence how you are perceived by the court. Avoid sharing content that may raise concerns about your ability to provide your child with a safe and stable environment.

Document evidence: If you come across any social media posts or messages from your co-parent that may be relevant to the child custody case, ensure you capture proper screenshots or preserve the evidence in an admissible format. Avoid altering or manipulating any content, as this may be considered tampering.

Inform trusted individuals: If you have close friends or family members who are active on social media, make them aware of your child custody case and the importance of their discretion. Ask them not to post any content that could be detrimental to your case.

 

Is Social Media Evidence Admissible in Court?

One common question that often arises is whether social media evidence is admissible in court. The answer is yes, social media posts and content can indeed be used as evidence in legal proceedings. Courts recognize that social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, are not private spaces but rather public forums where individuals voluntarily share their thoughts, feelings, and activities.

When it comes to divorce and child custody cases, social media posts can be highly influential in determining a person’s character, behavior, and fitness as a parent. Everything from photos and status updates to comments and likes can be used to build a narrative that either supports or undermines a party’s claims.

A parent seeking custody may paint themselves as a responsible and loving individual but may have posts on social media that tell a different story. Photos depicting excessive partying, substance abuse, or neglectful behavior can be detrimental to their case, as it raises concerns about their ability to provide a stable and safe environment for their child.

Negative posts or derogatory comments about an ex-spouse can have an impact on custody proceedings. Courts prioritize the child’s best interests, and anything that demonstrates hostility, animosity, or a lack of cooperation between parents can be viewed unfavorably. Judges want to see parents who are capable of putting their child’s needs first [3].

Several factors can influence its admissibility and credibility in court. This includes the account’s privacy settings, the posts’ authenticity, and the evidence’s reliability.

Is Social Media Evidence Admissible in Court?

 

Social Media Posts to Avoid

Negative or disparaging comments about your ex-spouse: Venting your frustrations about your ex-spouse on social media might provide temporary relief, but it can come back to haunt you during custody proceedings. Courts prioritize cooperation and the child’s best interests, so avoid engaging in online arguments or posting derogatory comments. Focus on maintaining a respectful and amicable relationship with your ex-spouse for the sake of your child.

Excessive partying or substance abuse: If you’re seeking custody of your child, posting photos or updates that depict excessive partying, drug use, or alcohol consumption can be damaging to your case. It raises concerns about your ability to provide your child with a stable and safe environment.

Neglectful behavior: Be mindful of the images or posts that portray neglectful parenting practices. Posting pictures of your child engaging in dangerous activities or being left unsupervised can be seen as evidence of inadequate parenting. Always showcase your commitment to your child’s safety and well-being on social media.

Public displays of extravagant spending: Flaunting a lavish lifestyle or expensive purchases on social media can raise questions about your financial stability and priorities. In child custody cases, the court looks at a parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs. Avoid posting about luxury vacations, designer purchases, or other extravagant expenditures that may be perceived as disregarding the child’s financial needs.

Violating court orders or restrictions: If there are court orders or restrictions in place regarding communication or certain behaviors, it is important to abide by them. Avoid posting anything that may be in violation of these orders, or that could be interpreted as non-compliance. Courts take these violations seriously, and they can negatively impact your case.

 

How Can a Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer Help?

Educate and advise: A lawyer can inform you about the potential risks and pitfalls associated with social media use during a divorce or custody case.

Guidance on social media use: Your lawyer can provide specific instructions on how to adjust your social media behavior to protect your interests.

Monitor the opposing party’s social media: Your lawyer can monitor the opposing party’s social media activity to gather evidence that may be relevant to the case. They can look for inconsistencies, contradictions, or any posts that could be used to support your claims or challenge the other party’s credibility.

Preserving evidence: If relevant social media posts or messages could impact the case, your lawyer can guide you on proper evidence preservation. This may involve taking screenshots, preserving web links, or obtaining legally admissible copies of the content.

Legal arguments: In court, your lawyer can use the collected social media evidence to support your stance on child custody matters. They can present arguments demonstrating how the other party’s social media activity may affect their ability to provide the child with a safe and stable environment.

Negotiation strategy: If negotiations are underway, your lawyer can use the social media information they have gathered to your advantage. During negotiations, they can leverage this information to achieve a favorable settlement or custody arrangement.

Court representation: If the custody case goes to court, your lawyer can effectively present the social media evidence and arguments to support your case. They can cross-examine the other party and their witnesses regarding any incriminating social media content.

How Can a Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer Help?

Contact us at Sacks & Sacks today to schedule a free consultation regarding your divorce or child custody case.

 

Sources:

[1] Magazine, D. (2022, April 20). 10 Tips for Social Media Use During Custody Cases – Divorce Magazine. Divorce Magazine. https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/10-tips-for-social-media-use-during-child-custody-cases

[2] Z. (2023, September 28). Essential Social Media And Divorce Statistics in 2023. ZipDo. https://zipdo.co/statistics/social-media-and-divorce/

[3] Byrne, M. (2023, September 8). Woman under fire for losing custody of her kids over her TikTok videos. Dexerto. https://www.dexerto.com/entertainment/woman-under-fire-for-losing-custody-of-her-kids-over-her-tiktok-videos-2285808/

by Adam Sacks

Adam Sacks is lead Family Law Attorney at Law Offices of Sacks & Sacks, P.A. in Jacksonville, Florida. He has a BA in Psychology from 1994, and received his Juris Doctor Degree in 1999 from the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Sacks and Sacks Law
1646 Emerson St. Suite B Jacksonville, FL 32207

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