Can Social Media Be Used in Child Custody Cases?
Sometimes The Little Things Matter
If you are in the midst of divorce proceedings, you likely have a lot on your mind. This time of your life is particularly stressful. You see, the formal end to your relationship marks a host of changes in your life and that of your family. And, while issues like separation of property and alimony are important, if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have children, a child custody arrangement may be the most pressing concern on your mind.
As you approach this important decision it is important to recognize that even in the most amicable of divorces, disagreements can arise when child custody is discussed. What begins as the most peaceful of separations often becomes contentious.
The advice and counsel of an experienced child custody attorney is critical as you move forward with your divorce. This professional can provide guidance and advice throughout the process and help to protect your relationship with your children.
It is not surprising that countless questions arise during child custody discussions. After all, when your children are involved, you want to make sure you are doing everything right.
In recent years, the personal use of technology has evolved faster than we could ever have imagined. In fact, today it seems like everyone has a presence on social media. Between profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok, you can learn a lot about the people in your life. Posts combine pictures, opinions, commentary, and even links – without a doubt, social media tells a story. This fact leads to one of the most often-asked questions with regard to child custody discussions.
Can Your Social Media Activity Affect Your Child Custody Case?
The bottom line is that yes, it can. How you communicate and portray yourself and your life, and what you post can have a very real impact on the court’s decisions and your future with your children. In most cases, you should be careful when communicating on your social media.
Determining Child Custody in Illinois
Understanding The Process
Divorce and child custody law is complex. In Illinois, child custody is two-fold – legal and physical. While the definition of physical custody is exactly as it sounds (where the child lives on a day-to-day basis), legal custody refers to the person or persons responsible for making decisions regarding the child (medical, education, etc.). The options for physical and legal custody are considerable – depending upon the situation. That said, clearly, what is ideal for one child could be vastly different from what works for another. Thus, the courts review each case carefully, making sure to take all factors into consideration.
If you and your spouse cannot come to a child custody agreement on your own, your parenting time allocation will be determined by the courts. When making this decision, a host of factors may be taken into account. First, the wishes of the parents will be reviewed; as will the wants and desires of the child. That said, the child’s age, education, and maturity will factor into how heavily this is weighed. Not all children have the ability to understand what is best for them. The child’s relationship with the parents will be reviewed and may play a significant role in the decision.
Other issues examined by the courts include the physical and mental health of both parents and the children, any adjustments that would be necessary to the child’s life (with regard to their home and school), and the parents’ commitment as to the relationship between their children and their ex. Finally, any issues of substance abuse and/or violence (either domestic or child abuse) would, as you would expect, impact the decisions.
Needless to say, the entire process is extremely personal and incredibly emotional. The counsel of a child custody lawyer, a professional who can provide unbiased advice and an independent view is not only valuable but also extremely necessary.
Your On-Line Presence Matters
Social Media Use Is Everywhere
Communicating electronically is commonplace. People share information daily. As a society, our social media tends to tell the stories of our lives. A quick look at any one person’s site can provide insight into their children, their extended family, their hobbies, and more. On some platforms, like Facebook, relationship status is front and center.
When you are in the midst of divorce and child custody proceedings, it is often best to minimize, if not completely stop your posting.
This can be incredibly difficult for many. Sharing bits and pieces of our daily lives, including our photos, activities, and thoughts has become second nature – many of us don’t even realize that we are doing it.
How Can Social Media Impact Your Child Custody Case?
What you say on your social media can impact the decision of the courts regarding the custody of your children.
When child custody is determined by the court, both parents’ attorneys will provide evidence to support their desired custody arrangement. This evidence is broad and may include everything from health and financial records to witness testimony. Today, social media posts are also often included.
The very best of parents’ innocent social media posts can influence courts regarding custody. In particular, posts complaining about your ex-spouse can be problematic. It is important to realize that regardless of your relationship, this individual is the parent of your children.
Additionally, posting pictures or comments regarding a new boyfriend or girlfriend can cause major issues. Remember, your divorce is not finalized until the papers are signed. Publicizing new relationships prior to that can be detrimental to child custody decisions.
And of course, posts that even mention drinking or drugs can portray you and your lifestyle poorly. Sharing personal information regarding your mental well-being can also be an issue.
Remember, it is the reader or viewer of the words or pictures you share who interpret your message. You cannot control others’ opinions. The court will review all evidence with an eye toward how living with you will affect your children. Its goal is to determine a custody arrangement that is in the very best interest of your children.
Guidelines for Social Media Use During Child Custody Proceedings
What You Should and Should Not Do: Tips to Consider
As your divorce progresses, your attorney will provide guidelines regarding your social media usage. That said, below are some general tips for your online presence during this time.
- Make all of your accounts private: You don’t want individuals whom you do not know personally to be able to view your posts.
- Unfriend Your Ex: Taking this step to preserve your privacy and protect your future is important.
- Change your passwords: You do not want your soon-to-be ex to have access to your accounts.
- Don’t post about your relationships: Simply keep your feelings regarding your child’s other parent and any new relationships to yourself.
- Counsel friends and family: Ask them to avoid posting on your page, or their pages, about you, your life, or any of your relationships.
- Don’t delete any social media posts: Discuss any posts about which you may be concerned with your child custody attorney. Don’t remove them on your own. Remember, screenshots exist and nothing online is ever truly gone forever.
To be honest, your best course of action may be to simply refrain from posting at all. You can use your social media to “see” what others are doing – just don’t share your activities, thoughts, or ideas. Talk to your attorney regarding your future social media usage.
Your Child Custody Lawyer Is Your Best Resource
Get The Guidance You Need
In general, child custody is a complex and emotional issue. And, the existence of social media and the role it plays in the future of your children can be significant. Managing this multi-step process and preparing for life after your divorce is a road you should not travel on your own. The advice and counsel of seasoned child custody attorneys is critical as you advocate for decisions today that will serve as the framework for tomorrow. Important decisions will be made, you want to have appropriate support.
The team at Wolfe & Stec are well-versed in all family law issues, particularly those relating to child custody. The combination of their knowledge and experience and compassionate, methodical, and calm approach positions them to provide you with the legal help you need. These professionals know the impact of social media on child custody in Illinois and can help you manage yours as you embark on this new chapter of your life.