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Custody in the Age of Social Media

Fighting over custody or getting divorced can be one of the hardest times in a person’s life.  There are all sorts of unknowns and stressors that can cause any person involved in a family court case to worry and be unable to sleep.   Many people involved in a custody or divorce case find themselves angry and needing to vent or talk to someone about what they are going through.  They need to be able to say how horrible their spouse is or what needs to happen in their case.   With the rise in popularity of social media, many people with an ongoing case in family law will post their thoughts or feelings online. 

As an attorney, I have seen many cases turn on the fact that one party posted something on Facebook,  Snapchat, or another social media site.  Posting something negative about your child’s other parent is never a good idea, even if it is true.  Family Court judges want to see that parents can work together, respect each other, and co-parent.  Encouraging your child to have a healthy relationship with his or her other parent will look favorable on you in court.  Telling the world how awful your ex is, will only make you look bad. 

Some people use social media to brag about their lifestyle, wealth, how hard they partied last week, their favorite illegal drug, or who they are in a relationship with.  I have used these types of posts to show the court that the other party is making more money than what they declared. This can lead to a higher child support or alimony obligation if I can prove that the other party is not being truthful about their income. I have also used posted photos showing a party waving a gun around or smoking pot which can result in the court suspending visitation with that parent. 

Many temporary and final orders will have language that may prevent one parent from talking bad about the other parent in front of the child or discussing the case with the child.  Parents should read their court orders and follow it word for word.   Posting online that you told your child something or posting something knowing that your child could read it, could result in the court holding you in contempt. 

Many people are shocked to learn that a parent could be forced to turn over everything that they have ever posted or texted during the discovery phase of the case.  Many of my clients view what they post as private.  However, in custody and divorce proceedings there is little to no privacy.  Be prepared for everything that you ever posted on Facebook or any other site to be viewed by your ex and his or her attorney, and maybe even by a judge. 

Although social media can be fun and an easy way to vent and get things off your chest, I strongly caution my clients to be very careful about what they are posting online.  Posting online that you are “going to Aruba for vacation” but then claiming you cannot afford child support can land you in hot water with the court.  You can choose to stay out of trouble by not posting. 

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