The use of social media has impacted and changed many of our day-to-day lives. Did you know there are approximately 2.2 billion social media users in the entire world*? Actually, most of you reading this article probably have at least one of these accounts. Social media includes social networks and forums such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Think about how many times a day you browse and scroll through your social media accounts. For some of us it is several times per day, and for most of us it is probably more than we would like to admit. In the last ten years or so, social media has changed more than our private lives; it has also had a significant impact on the area of family law. Given the “social” nature of social media, what you post or share on your accounts can end up being used against you in your custody, child support, and/or alimony case.
The widespread use of home computers and the emergence of apps directly on your phone make it easier than ever for you to get almost instantaneous access to see, and share, personal information between you and your friends or followers. The first part of this two-part article focuses on social media posts as it relates to your custody case. While this article is meant to inform you about common pitfalls and mistakes that can negatively affect your custody case through the use of social media, it is also a reminder for all parties that you never know when someone is watching what you post.
Most family law attorneys would agree that custody can be one of the most emotionally-charged aspects of family law. After all, nothing is more personal to a parent than their kids. In the event you and your ex cannot agree on the custody schedule and other issues surrounding children, you may end up in the courtroom where a judge will decide for you what custody of your children will look like. This could include a variety of outcomes, one parent may have primary physical custody while one has visitation rights (or secondary physical custody), or you may end up with a joint custody schedule. Under North Carolina statute and case law, the judge is mandated to do what he or she believes is in the child’s best interest and can put any schedule in place that appears best for the children based on the evidence and testimony presented. How each parent behaves will play a significant role in that decision.
Some of the Ways Social Media Posts Can Damage Your Custody Case
- Bad-mouthing the other parent. With the quick and convenient access to social media, it’s very easy to post your initial reactions and emotions to situations. For example, if the other parent continuously shows up late to exchange the children, it’s tempting to go to Facebook while you are waiting for them to arrive and post a rant about how selfish, lazy, and immature you think they are. Or if you find out your ex is dating someone you don’t like, you may have the urge to take to social media to give them a piece of your mind and threaten that they better not come around your children anymore. These scenarios can be troublesome for more than one reason in court. For starters, if you post to a public forum like social media to talk about what a terrible person the other parent is, the judge may have a very hard time believing that you don’t bad-mouth the other parent to the children directly. And, in the event your children are old enough to read, they may see those posts directly. Making disparaging remarks about the other parent to, or in front of the children, is a big deal to most judges. So, how can you cope with your desire to blast the other parent on social media? First, take a deep breath. Then, grab a coffee or a drink with a close and trusted friend or family member to vent your feelings about the opposing party in person rather than in writing on the World Wide Web. Ask your attorney if he or she recommends creating a “divorce journal”? Always remember that venting on social media, while it may feel good at the time, is not worth risking your custody case.
- Morality issues. Right or wrong, your actions in just about any area of your life can be used for or against you in court. The judge is a regular person just like the rest of us, and they have their own set of beliefs and morals. Some judges are more liberal than others. While you may believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that Instagram photo of you having a night out with your friends that happened to involve cocktails, a judge might. Especially if the other parent is trying to convince the court that you have a drinking problem. While this may be completely untrue, it’s much better to avoid having this argument in front of the judge if you can. Be conscious of what you portray online (and what your friends post when they are with you), try not to hand the other side any ammunition, regardless how innocent, that they can attempt to use against you. Excessive cursing is another faux pas that can also be viewed negatively by a judge. There are not rules that say that you have to change your personality, or that you can’t go out and have a good time, but while your custody case is pending, it may be a good idea to take a break from posting everything online. Try taking an objective look at your photos and posts and see if there is anything that can be construed in a negative light, or that a judge may frown upon.
While we all love sharing our thoughts, feelings, and activities with our family, friends, and followers, it is important to think very hard about whether anything you post can be used against you or taken in a negative manner during your custody case before you post it.
Join us for part two of this blog soon! We will focus on the effect social media may have on the financial and property issues in your case. In the meantime, just remember – if you can’t say something nice, it’s probably not worth saying on social media while you wait for your day in court.
If you have questions about your custody proceedings, contact Sodoma Law today at 704.442.000 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
*statista.com compiles data and statistics from thousands of sources.