Social Media & Child Custody: What You Need to Know

Social media is a great tool that can help the public connect with more people, create and find community, share information, receive news updates (of a personal and global nature), and be entertained. However, even with all its benefits, social media has a lot of downsides—just ask the 72% of Americans that have at least one social media account.

Amongst the drawbacks, social media can be used against you in family law cases, including child custody disputes. Below, we will discuss how social media can be used against you in court and the “do’s and don’ts” concerning social media use during your case.

Is Social Media Content Admissible Evidence?

To strengthen your case and/or substantiate your claims, you can submit evidence to the court, such as written testimonies, copies of email or text messages, medical and/or police records, and photographs and/or videos (including social media content). Evidence (such as videos, comments, direct messages, etc.) may be collected from:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Snapchat
  • Bumble (and other dating sites)
  • YouTube
  • Other online sources and social media networks

The other party may submit social media content to prove that you are an unfit parent because of:

  • A current or past struggle with addiction
  • A “party lifestyle” or extremely active social life
  • An inability to cooperate and co-parent with the other party
  • A failure to properly set age-appropriate boundaries and restrictions with the child

Examples of How Social Media Can Be Persuasive Evidence

What you post online matters. Research suggests that about 81% of attorneys find social media evidence worth submitting to the court. Even seemingly innocent content or posts made with innocent intentions can be used and seen in a different light by the court.

Here are some examples of how the other side may use social media content against you.

  • The other side may argue that you are unable to be the primary or sole caregiver because of your work and travel schedule. To substantiate this claim, they showcase your tweets about your “crazy work hours,” Instagram photos that show you travel (for work and pleasure) 60% of the year, and your mom’s weekly Facebook updates about having to babysit while you work.
  • The other side may argue that you are an unfit parent because you constantly party. To prove their point, they may show racy photos you posted after a night out with friends, the geo-tags on your status updates, and videos your friends posted after a fun evening at your house.
  • The other side may argue that you are not willing to peacefully resolve conflicts and work with the other parent. To substantiate this claim, they may share your tweets about how much you hate the other party or comments you made that can be interpreted as harassment or defamation.

Social Media Best Practices During Custody Cases

Here are some considerations for using social media during your child custody case.

  • Review your privacy settings. It is important to note that your social media posts can still be used and accessed even if you have a private account (i.e. via shared screenshots or discovery requests). However, you should remove the other party (and possibly others) from your “close friends” groups. Also, having a private account can still limit access and provide you with some protections.
  • Don't post about the other parent. Avoid venting online about the other parent and your co-parenting/relationship struggles. As we mentioned in the example, your comments about the other parent can be used against you.
  • Don't post details about the case. While social media can be a great place to share your thoughts, opinions, and life updates, you should not share information about the case proceedings, the judge or courtroom, or conversations you have with your attorney.
  • Ask your close friends and family to be conscientious as well. What they post is also discoverable and admissible, so share these best practices with them or simply ask them to not post about the case or other party.
  • Don't post complaints about your child or parenting. Even if you meant the post or comment facetiously, the other party can easily misconstrue and twist your intentions.

You can also choose to just take a social media hiatus during the proceedings but be advised that you should still be mindful of what you post and share even after the case concludes. If you and the other party plan to be co-parents, you don’t want the relationship to be strained or hostile. In the event, either party files to modify or enforce your agreement, social media evidence can be used yet again to affect your case outcome.

Contact Our Child Custody Attorneys Today

Our firm can help parents that are planning to file for custody, fighting to protect their custodial rights currently, or seeking to modify an existing agreement. We are equipped to help our clients:

  • Understand the best practices concerning social media use and courtroom etiquette
  • Collect evidence to use in court or negotiations
  • Prepare a legal strategy with your best interest in mind

At Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C., our attorneys have decades of combined legal experience. Known for being compassionate advocates, aggressive litigators, and knowledgeable professionals, we are here to assist your family. To schedule your free, initial consultation, call (516) 406-8381 or complete this online form.