Sixty percent of the Earth’s population, roughly 4.89 billion individuals, now use social media. According to Statista, by 2027, 5.85 billion will be on a social media platform. Social media has become integral to our lives, influencing how we work, learn, and share. Although social media has brought about great change, when it comes to divorce proceedings, the use of social media can have far-reaching and negative consequences. It’s critical to understand what and how the impacts of social media may play in your custody case and to tread carefully with social media use in any way related to your custody battle during this sensitive period. Let’s explore the potential ramifications of using social media during a custody dispute and review valuable guidance on navigating this complex terrain.
Keeping Things Private for Your Child and Legal Case
Social media platforms have revolutionized communication and data transmission, but they have also introduced new perspectives in legal matters. In some legal issues and law enforcement cases, social media can sometimes be a tool and even advantageous. However, custody battles are no exception to social media’s impacts and can often produce significant challenges. What we post or share online can be used as evidence in court. In a custody battle, the primary concern of the court is the best interests of the child. Any information you share about yourself can impact this analysis and also indicate whether you are likely to co-parent well with your child’s other parent.
Usually, the less you share, particularly about your family problems or relationship dynamics, the better. It is best to take the cautious and discrete approach. For example, if you intend to post, comment, react, or share anything on a social media platform, assume that everything you post can be examined, especially by those you wish wouldn’t see it. Remember that what you post may be used against you during the proceedings. Even seemingly innocuous posts or photos can be misinterpreted, taken out of context, or used as evidence to challenge your credibility or parenting abilities. It’s crucial to maintain caution and be mindful of the digital footprint you leave behind.
Privacy Settings Are Not Foolproof
“Maybe I can just change the setting of this post to be visible to my friend or follower list except for this person.” Many people believe that by adjusting their social media privacy settings, they can safeguard their posts from unwanted attention. Even if you modify your privacy settings, bear in mind that what you post on social media and the actions you take on social media may wind up in front of your child’s other parent and their attorney and, in turn, be used as evidence in court. Even if you block the other parent from viewing your content using privacy settings, friends or acquaintances may still share the item with them or screenshot your posts and send it to them. Occasionally, orders may be issued by the judge to access private accounts during custody proceedings. That’s why it’s vital and only to your benefit to exercise good judgment and caution when engaging with social media platforms, both in terms of your interactions and the content you post.
Dos: Practicing Responsible Social Media Use
When going through a custody battle, being mindful of how you use social media can make all the difference in safeguarding your rights and ensuring a fair outcome. It’s essential to stay vigilant and think twice before posting anything that could harm your case. Avoid oversharing or posting anything that could be misconstrued.
Keeping a low profile and refraining from airing your grievances online can help protect your interests during this trying time. There are, however, cases in which social media use cannot be decreased. If you are an online influencer, have a large online presence related to your business, or by sharing content as an entertainer, artist, or artisan, reducing the amount of time you spend on social media or the volume of posts you publish may not be possible. However, by ensuring the imagery and written content are strictly related to the subject matter, e.g., your profession or avocation, you should be able to continue your social media activities. When in doubt, hold off on posting, take a day to review it, and consider running the content by someone you trust or even your attorney.
The following points may serve as guidelines so you can maintain control over your online presence and minimize the risk of detrimental consequences while still preserving relationships with friends, networking for work, and staying connected to your family:
- Think Before You Post: Consider the potential consequences before sharing anything on social media. Ask yourself if the content could be misconstrued or used against you in court. If in doubt, it’s best to refrain from posting or sharing. Don’t specifically talk about your custody battle or the child’s other parent. It may also be wise to limit posts about your child or children in general.
- Pause Before Pressing Post: Before you publish something on social media, a post, a comment, a reply to a friend or a user you don’t know, or a reshare of something you saw or read, pause. Use this moment to identify the subject and tone of your post, comment, or reply. Next, check your motives for publishing, sharing, or engaging. Lastly, when in doubt, reconsider. If it is something significant, you will remember and circle back to it, and perhaps the time away will have given you clarity or a better perspective.
- “Delete” Doesn’t Erase Your Digital Footprint: As mentioned above, social media users screenshot, screen record, and share. Even if you realize you should not have posted something and deleted it, the damage may already have been done. It is necessary to highlight the implications of this fact and reiterate the significance of the second guideline.
- Review Privacy Settings: Consistently review and adjust your privacy settings to maintain the most control over who has direct access to your posts. You must also ensure you are the only person with the login credentials to your social media accounts. Be sure to change your password if there is any chance your account was compromised. Further, restrict the audience of your shared and posted content to people you trust, such as close friends and family, to minimize the risk of it being used against you.
- Maintain a Respectful Tone: Upholding civil and respectful conduct online is key when going through a custody battle. Refrain from getting involved in online disputes or making negative comments about or to your former spouse or your child’s other parent and others. Demonstrating a cooperative and respectful attitude will only positively impact your case. If the court believes you may be likely to alienate the other parent from the child, this will count against you in determining the best interests of the child.
Note: Custody battles are filled with emotions; clients are often unaware of those emotions and how powerful they can be. Unfortunately, a significant situation can arise with just a tap or a click, an argument with your ex ignited, or evidence easily and unintentionally providing an advantage to the other side in a custody dispute.
Don’ts: Social Media Pitfalls to Avoid
To ensure your interests are protected and avoid any negative complications in your case, it’s vital to be aware of the following common social mistakes and take measures to avoid them.
- Oversharing Personal Information: It’s advisable to refrain from sharing personal details of your custody dispute, divorce, or child during a custody dispute. Openly disclosing private matters and personal information can damage your legal case, if it appears to the court that being in your custody full time or even part time would not be in the best interests of the child.
- Displaying Reckless Behavior: Mindfulness is key during a custody dispute, particularly regarding what you share and post online. For example, sharing content that shows alcohol consumption, substance use, or other behaviors deemed risky can be used to define your character or misconstrued.
- Demonstrating Animosity Towards Your Ex: Parental alienation, where one parent tries to either physically keep a child away from their other parent, manipulate the child into not wanting to be with their other parent, or otherwise interferes with the parental rights of the other parent or relationship between the child and the other parent, is taken very seriously by Texas courts. If the court thinks that you are not likely to comply with a joint custody order or visitation schedule with the child’s other parent, they may be less likely to grant you custody, seeing this behavior and alienation of the other parent as being against the child’s best interests of having both parents involved in their life.
Seek A Child Custody Attorney for Guidance
It is critical to consider social media’s impact on your custody battle. Sticking to responsible social media approaches, such as thinking before posting, avoiding oversharing and misrepresentation, and maintaining privacy settings, you can safeguard your interests and illustrate a positive impression, whether in court or mediation.
A seasoned attorney who understands the nuances of Texas child custody law and the state’s legal system can provide tailored guidance based on your unique circumstances. Contact a compassionate and experienced child custody lawyer to schedule a confidential consultation.
Attorney Kevin Hunter at Boudreaux Hunter & Associates, LLC has experience with child custody, spousal support, high conflict divorce, and is fully equipped to guide you through the process.