Can Social Media Be Used in Child Custody Cases?

In preparing for a child custody case, both parties will collect and submit any evidence to the court prior to their hearing. In family law matters, including child custody cases, parents can strengthen their case by presenting evidence, such as:

  • Witness testimony
  • Bills or receipts
  • Contracts
  • Lease agreements
  • Copies of text messages or email communications
  • Medical, police, or school records
  • Visitation logs concerning the amount of time the child spends with either parent
  • Photo or video evidence, including social media posts
  • Other documents that you believe will protect your interests and/or support your case

Child custody and co-parenting can be stressful, and you likely have some justifiable reasons to be upset or sad. However, many parents do not realize the dangers of social media posts concerning their child custody case.

How Can Social Media Be Used Against You?

In all custody cases, the best interests of the child are the number one priority. In determining what is in the child’s best interest, courts will consider a host of factors, such as:

  • Which parent has been the primary caregiver thus far
  • The child’s wishes (typically if they are over 13 years old)
  • Each parent’s financial welfare, parenting ability, and strengths/weakness
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health
  • Each parent’s work schedule and childcare plan
  • Accusations of domestic violence and/or substance abuse issues
  • Each parent’s willingness to cooperate with the other parent and foster the relationship with the other parent

Social media posts may be used to evidence that a parent:

  • Is negligent
  • Has a substance or alcohol abuse issue
  • Is harassing the other parent
  • Is out to get revenge rather than acting in the best interest of the child

Safe Social Media Practices when Co-Parenting

As mentioned, your social media posts can be entered as evidence. Before and during your case, you should be mindful of what you are posting. Here is some cautionary advice for how to engage with social media:

  • Limit or avoid social media usage. If posting on social media is second nature to you, it may be best to take a temporary hiatus. When your emotions are running high and you need to vent, consider journaling or talking to a trusted friend.
  • Act as if everything you post is a matter of public record. If you still use social media, remember that anything you post can be used and taken out of context. For instance, you may post that you lost track of time and were late to pick up your child, so you all went to get ice cream. The opposing legal team can use that post (along with others like it or school records) to argue that you are unreliable.
  • Avoid posting about your ex/the other parent. While you may be tempted to vent your frustrations or bad-mouth the other parent on social media, the rule of thumb is: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t post it on social media. Even if the other parent isn’t one of your followers or your account is private, the posts may still be discoverable.
  • Don’t talk about the case. Don’t tweet or post online about the judge or the court proceedings. If you do, this could be construed as a lack of discretion or an offense (depending on what you say).
  • Make your account private. Your posts won’t be completely undiscoverable but eliminating more people from having access to your account is never a bad idea.
  • Consider removing some followers. You should prune your followers/friends as some may be closer to the other parent. Anyone who may “report back” to the other parent with screenshots or other communication should be unfriended.
  • Don’t “cyber-stalk” your ex. To protect your peace of mind, leave the investigation to your attorney. Don’t ask friends or family to tell you about what they’re up to or posting about.

While you may choose to limit or avoid using social media during your custody case, you should still be mindful of what you post on social media after the court orders are issued. If either parent’s circumstances change, they can file a custody or visitation modification petition to modify the existing custodial arrangement. Modification cases primarily focus on changes involving finances, instances of abuse or abandonment, or a significant time lapse (the order was issued over 3 years ago). However, your social media may be brought up again.

Remember, the internet is forever. Years from now or even in a few months, you may not remember what you posted, but the internet will. When your kids grow up or gain access to social media, they may be able to see what their parents posted about each other and the case. If they stumble upon your post or scroll through your profile one day, what would you want them to read?

Contact Our Child Custody Attorneys Today

At Levi Divorce & Family Law Attorneys, we exclusively handle family law cases. Our attorneys have a wealth of experience when it comes to helping parents successfully navigate their child custody cases. When you retain us, you can be assured that we believe in your case 100% and will work with your (as well as your child’s) best interest at the forefront of our minds.

For honest, reliable legal counsel in your child custody case, reach out to our office at (718) 215-0121 or online. Se habla español. דוברים עברית. Мы говорим на русском.

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