20 Jan 7 Ways Social Media Can Impact Your Child Custody Case
In Washington state, divorcing couples can negotiate nearly all aspects of their lives after they split. A proposed divorce settlement that the partners can present to the courts for approval may include everything from the division of property to child custody and support.
To determine a parenting schedule, each parent wants to maximize their time with their children and minimize the disruption to their children’s lives. However, the best way to do that can be a point of contention. Worse, some parents are so hurt by the split with their partner that they use a child custody battle to punish their spouse.
The courts step in when parents can’t agree on a custody plan. Family court judges must put the children’s best interests first when determining custody arrangements. This means that parental behavior comes under close scrutiny. It’s a mistake to think you can carry on as usual when the courts, and especially your partner’s lawyer, will be putting your life under a microscope to prove that you should not have custody of your kids.
You may think that social media posts are just harmless sharing between you and your friends, but that’s not true. The court can use anything you put online against you, and anyone who sees or receives a social media post or text message can take a screenshot of it or save it, and it can come back to haunt you. Consider these seven ways social media can impact your child custody case.
Show You Spending Money on Yourself
If you’re trying to portray yourself as a parent that needs financial support to take care of your kids, it’s unwise to post photos of your lavish ski vacation or your new motorcycle. Even if your financial situation isn’t an issue, posts that show you spending a lot of money on yourself imply you’re more interested in making yourself happy than caring for your kids. This could be a consideration that the Judge makes to support the other parent’s claims and could result in the other parent having more time with the children.
Prove You’re a Liar
If you post a picture of you out to dinner with a friend, or a message complaining about working late at the office on the night you’re supposed to spend time with your kids, you’re busted. The first thing your spouse’s lawyer will ask is, “who was watching the kids while you weren’t there?” It is very common for parties to look at each other’s social media in order to find compromising pictures or posts that show you in a bad light.
Catch You Partying
Anyone who has been on social media for a decade or more probably has some documented youthful indiscretions. As long as those took place before you became a parent, you can probably explain them away. Deleting them is unwise because that implies you’ve got something to hide.
Worse, once proceedings start, you could violate court rules by destroying potential evidence, potentially subjecting you to severe punishment. Consult your lawyer before you try to clean up your online act by deleting your accounts. Remember those screenshots? You can’t erase your entire social media presence, so don’t try.
It is best to talk to an attorney about any indiscretions so that they are aware and may act to protect you.
So, avoid recent posts of you out whooping it up with your old frat brothers at a bachelor party or at a birthday celebration party for your sorority sister that can damage your claims in a custody dispute. It’s not that you can’t go out; remember that anyone can snap a photo of you in public, and that photo can end up online. Your friends may “tag” you, and facial recognition technology can show you in a place you wouldn’t want your spouse or the courts to know you visited (hint: a strip club.) The most important thing is to be aware of what social media you have and if there is a concerning post, speak with your family law attorney.
Find You Looking for Hookups
You may think your personal life is personal, but when you sign up for dating sites or sites that facilitate casual sexual encounters, there’s a record of that online. Anyone who receives a message from you can take a screenshot of it and share it.
Worse, if you send an explicit photo or text, the recipient can save it, copy it, and send it around. Courts frown on a parent putting their gratification above the best interests of their children. Explicit photos make you look unfit, like you lack good judgment, and imply you are a possible danger to your kids. Don’t do it.
Show You Using Your Kids As Props
Vindictive spouses sometimes try to escalate a custody dispute by trying to prove their home is bigger, cleaner, or better equipped with toys and amusements than the other parent’s house. But when you post staged photos of kids getting pushed to “have fun!” the inauthenticity of it screams from the screen.
Dragging your kids around all over creation for photo opportunities doesn’t prove you’re a good parent, but it may show your wiliness to use your kids as pawns in a revenge plot against your spouse. Not a good idea.
Violating your children’s privacy by posting many photos of them during divorce proceedings will make you look bad. Divorce is incredibly hard on kids, and exploiting them for your benefit with social media posts that show you using your kids as leverage will backfire. The Court is likely to be able to tell what is truthful and what is not, so it is best to tell the truth and ensure your attorney knows of any posts that may be used against you.
Imply Your Home Is Unsafe
While you’re contemplating those staged photos, has it occurred to you that those pictures may show you have an unlocked gun cabinet or a fully stocked bar that’s well within reach of your toddler? If you’re going to claim that you can be a responsible custodial parent, pay attention to your home environment and make sure it is appropriate for your children. Even prescription pill bottles and other not kid-friendly items that are accessible to the children may be brought to support why your home is dangerous.
Capture Alcohol or Drug Abuse
Youthful indiscretion is one thing, but posts showing you in a state of inebriation or talking about the pleasures of smoking weed (even legally) will hurt your custody case.
Even a seemingly innocent photo of you and your kids enjoying the big game can backfire if it captures a beer sloshing around in a cup in your hand, on the verge of spilling on your children. Substance abuse can cost you the opportunity for any custody at all, and if you get awarded visitation, that visitation may require supervision. Keep clean for the sake of your kids.
When you are in a custody dispute with your soon-to-be ex, you must maintain decorum everywhere, including on social media. Be alert for these seven ways social media can impact your child custody case, and every time you get tempted to post something, think about the potential impact on your case first.
If you’re facing a custody battle in a contested divorce, contact the Washington child custody attorneys at LaCoste Family Law. We can help you build the best case to present to the court to award you custody of your children or work out a joint custody plan you can live with that will be acceptable to your spouse.