There are many reasons it is important for people to use their social media accounts wisely. Information and content on social media sites are easily accessible once it is on the platform. In custody or divorce cases, individuals can gather evidence from social media sites to prove or state their case in accordance with what is expressed or shared online.
Can Social Media Be Used in Custody or Divorce Cases?
What Can Be Used from Social Media?
Social media posts and other information can be used to prove a person’s activities by identifying the time, date, and even who the person is spending time with. This type of evidence is often useful in a custody battle. Such information can help determine where the best environment is for the health of the children. Platforms like LinkedIn can also help build a case towards child support and alimony based on the person’s area of work and how they advertise themselves to employers. The general evidence that is often gathered from social media can be seen below.
Inability to Co-Parent
If a parent is negatively posting about the other parent, either directly or in a more indirect manner, this may be used to show that the parents are unable to co-parent or that one parent is creating the toxic environment. For example, if they are posting, commenting, or sharing negative material about the other parent or other parent’s family or activities often, it is easier to claim that they are not respectful of the other parent and are trying to convince others to have a negative view of the other parent. This can be helpful when your client wants sole custody and the Judge is considering granting the parents joint custody. While social media alone isn’t often enough to prove this, it can be used as a piece of evidence for the claim. Some Courts will enter anti-harassment orders or even protection orders to order a parent to stop engaging in these negative behaviors when such postings are shared with the Court.
Issues with Drugs or Alcohol
If a parent is trying to show that the other parent suffers from issues with drugs or alcohol, social media can be helpful in showing this is true. Frequent posts about drinking or partying, coded messages likely referring to drug use or drug symbols (i.e. marijuana leaf) can be helpful in convincing the Court that the other parent has issues. Although a hair follicle drug test and/or chemical dependency evaluation might also be necessary to convince a judge as to the level and extent of drug or alcohol use, social media postings may help convince the Court that this type of drug testing or evaluation should be court-ordered.
Proof of Parenting Struggles
If a parent is trying to show that the other parent is struggling to take care of the children, social media posts can give a glimpse into the other parent’s thoughts and activities. A parent’s posts regarding current mental health struggles or difficulties with caring for or disciplining the children can be used to show that they may not be the best choice for the custodial parents. Posts showing a home in a very unkept manner or showing potential safety concerns could lead to the Court allowing further investigation into the safety of the home. Posts with a lot of emotion could show an immaturity or inability to handle the emotions and frustrations that come with raising children. Also, the timing and frequency of the postings can be used to show issues in the home. For example, if the parent is frequently posting in the middle of the night, the Court might start to question why they are up posting on social media instead of sleeping.
Evidence of Income
Looking at activities posted online can help identify income and expenses that a parent may have. For example, if the parent claims to have a low amount of income but is frequently shown at expensive restaurants or taking lavish trips, this can be useful as partial evidence to prove what their finances really are.
Evidence of Location & Timing
Most photos can provide evidence as to a location based on the factors in the background. However, social media platforms and users can also sometimes provide an accurate location of where a photo or video was taken. For example, a post with the children included could show the children staying up way past a reasonable bedtime on a school night. It could also show the parent frequently going out without the children on the parent’s already limited parenting time. The same information can also be useful in custody cases or divorce cases for situations where the person is claiming to be elsewhere at important events that are in question.
Importance of Context
While social media can be used as evidence in a custody or divorce case, that information or material alone is often insufficient proof. Information can be taken out of context and manipulated to a certain point. This is why lawyers will often only use social media postings in limited circumstances.
Your Social Media Use
No matter the situation, it is always in your best interest to think before posting or commenting on social media. Even better yet, it is often best to remove or restrain from a social media presence if custody or divorce is pending or a potential. Note that blocking the other party will not usually solve this issue. There are still other individuals that can access the content on social media platforms and resurface the information. Therefore, it is often advisable that a person should either deactivate their accounts and/or refrain from further postings.
A Therapist’s View
For a great article from a therapist about the effects of social media on divorce, see the article on Psychology Today: “Marriage, Divorce, and Social Media: A Recipe for Disaster” by Ann Gold Buscho, Ph.D. (posted November 9, 2021).
Law Office of Julie Fowler, PC, LLO | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
Child Custody | Child Support | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
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