Facebook. YouTube. WhatsApp. Instagram. TikTok. Snapchat. Twitter. We share so much information on social media. We post everything from our daily life to important events, achievements, celebrations, and even life’s tragedies. We constantly communicate with society through photos and status updates. But while sharing our personal life online has become normal, it is important to be mindful of your online presence before, during, and after a child custody proceeding.
Your social media presence can be heavily scrutinized during a child custody case. If you have a questionable online presence, it can impact how a judge rules in a child custody case. Exercising discretion on all social media platforms is generally a good legal strategy and can help keep your children insulated from the posts by their parents, family, and friends regarding pending custody litigation. You should not only exercise discretion but also be aware of what is being posted by family and friends as those posts could also be problematic to the judge at trial.
Here are 10 tips for parents using social media who are involved in a child custody case. These tips apply before, during, and after your divorce or child custody case.
1. Stop Right Now
If you wanted to take the safest approach – this is it. The filing of a divorce or child custody case is a perfect time for a social media cleanse. If you stay off all social media, then you eliminate the potential pitfalls and repercussions of one or more bad posts. Additionally, you prevent yourself from having your children look at what you are posting and having those posts affect the children’s relationship with you or the other parent.
2. To Delete or Not Delete, that is the Question
Although quitting social media cold turkey might be the safest strategy, that doesn’t mean that you should then delete everything already posted. Before hitting the delete button, speak with your attorney to make sure he or she doesn’t want you to keep that history for use in the divorce or child custody case. Also, if you are already involved in the litigation you need to discuss with your attorney if deleting would violate any discovery requests or local court rules. Play it safe and contact your attorney before deleting any evidence that could result in court sanctions against you.
3. I Don’t Want to Quit Social Media
If you don’t want to quit social media, then you need to consider reducing your online presence. The opposing attorney, the other parent, your other parent’s friends, and family may all be watching or reading your social media posts on a frequent basis. Make your social media private, if possible, to avoid having anything you post become part of the child custody case. Keep in mind that those videos and posts may seem funny or harmless to you; however, you have no idea how they will be viewed by the judge and could easily be taken out of context.
4. What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas
Remember that television commercial. Well, that doesn’t apply to social media. What is posted online stays online. Also, just because it is posted on Snapchat doesn’t mean that the recipient can’t take a screenshot before it disappears. Just be safe and assume there is a record of everything you post on the internet, even if you deleted it. Basically, do not post anything that you don’t want the judge to see in your divorce or child custody case.
5. You Don’t Need to Tell Everyone About this Case
This case is about your children. The court expects you to put them first. As a result, you should not discuss your divorce or child custody case online. This is true for family, your best friend, your close friends, or your internet chat room friends. Doing so can have a negative effect in court or simply have a negative impact on those relationships should posts become evidence in the case. Also, most judges have a negative impression of parents who publicize their court case. It’s always a good idea to avoid doing anything to upset the judge in your case.
6. Stop Before You Say Anything Bad
Coparenting 101 is not to say anything bad about the other parent that can be seen or overheard by your children. To avoid that from happening, you should never post anything bad about the other parent. Before you think that the post is okay since I didn’t use his or her name, remember your intent when making that post. What is that song lyric about? What did you intend to tell the world with that meme? Do you think no one other than you will get that quote you just posted is really about your ex? Since the best interest of the child is the focus of the judge, remember that your willingness to foster the relationship between your children and the other parent and your ability to coparent will be scrutinized if your posts tell the judge a different story than your court testimony.
7. Discuss Before Posting Pictures of Your Children
Do you know the other parent’s position on whether photos of your children should be kept off or posted on social media? If the answer is no, then you should discuss this topic with the other parent and try to reach an agreement. If no agreement can be reached, ask your lawyer to see if the judge assigned to your case has an opinion.
8. Is there Alcohol or Drugs in that Photo
Are you accused of being an alcoholic? What about drinking around the children? Recreational drug use? These are not uncommon allegations in a divorce or child custody case. Whether justified or not, you don’t have to assist the other parent by posting photos of yourself consuming alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances. These photos can significantly impact a custody determination in a divorce or child custody case.
9. Look at what I Just Bought
What version of your life are you posting on social media? Are you claiming you have no money to pay child support but posting pictures of yourself on vacation or shopping at Saks or an expensive restaurant? If this isn’t your true reality, then don’t post yourself engaging in these luxuries. Otherwise, if you become delinquent in child support these posts may be used against you in court.
10. Limit Your Friends and Followers
Who are your friends and followers on social media? Do you and the other parent have some friends and followers in common? If so, then the other parent may be able to see posts liked or commented on by those common friends. It may be a good idea to reduce your social media followers to friends and family that you don’t share with the other parent.
Should you need the advice of an experienced divorce and child custody attorney or have questions or concerns about your situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those issues with you.