Why You Should Stay Off Social Media During Your Custody Case
In part four of this series about the Do’s and Don’ts of Custody, I will discuss how using social media can harm your custody case. In part two of this series, which you can read about here, I discussed how emails and text messages can affect the outcome of a custody case. Similarly, the way you use social media can also have a major impact on how the court determines custody.
There are two ways that social media postings are typically used in custody cases. The first, and most common, is as evidence of disparaging remarks one parent makes about the other on Facebook, Twitter, etc. As I mentioned before, you always have to keep in mind that you are under a microscope during a custody case. Even if you block or unfriend the other parent, remember you both may have mutual friends that can report back and provide copies of what was written on there. If a parent is constantly badmouthing the other parent on Facebook, such as calling them a deadbeat or a terrible parent, the court can use that against them when deciding custody. The court has to consider any attempts made by a parent to alienate the children from the other parent. Depending on the severity of the statements, they could be considered attempts to alienate, especially if the children are also on social media and can see what was posted. So while you may feel like you are just venting to your Facebook friends, if you disparage the other parent on there, it could very well come back to bite you at the custody hearing.
The second way that Facebook postings come up may not seem as obvious as the first. One of the sixteen custody factors the court must consider when deciding custody is the parents’ availability and the duties they perform for the children. This often leads to arguments over what each parent’s work and travel schedules are like and whether a parent is home when they have custody or if a babysitter is actually there instead. Since people often post pictures on Facebook of night outs or trips they take, it can be a way to track one’s comings and goings. For example, there was a New York custody case in 2015 where a mother was ordered to turn over all of her Facebook postings and pictures from the past four years. The father alleged that the mother would frequently go on vacations and trips without their child during her custody time. The mother denied this ever occurred. The court ordered the mother to turn over the Facebook postings which showed that the mother was frequently taking trips out of state without their child and even went on a vacation to Italy.
So it is not just posting disparaging remarks about the other parent that can get you into trouble. The mother in the example above hurt her case in several ways. First, by of course frequently not being with their child during her custody time, then lying about it, and lastly, leaving a trail of evidence by posting pictures on Facebook of her trips. So while staying off social media is becoming increasingly difficult for many, if you are in the middle of a divorce or custody case, it would be a good time to start trying to cut back. As always, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case.