Seventy-nine percent of Americans had a profile on a social media network (equating to roughly 247 million users) as of 2019. We spend an average of 144 minutes per day scrolling through various feeds, making comments, and liking photos—a 62.5% increase from the one-hour-a-day average Americans spent on social media in 2012.
Needless to say, for most of us, social media is a significant part of our lives. It's where we go to connect with old friends, make new ones, and share things we do or enjoy with friends and loved ones.
Social media doesn't just occupy our free time—today, it plays an important role in a variety of legal disputes, including divorce and child custody cases. Earlier this year, we wrote a blog on how social media plays into divorces. Today, we're taking a look at whether or not what you post on social media can be used against you in a custody battle, as well as best practices for posting on social media while involved in a custody dispute.
Is Social Media Evidence Admissible in Court?
In a word, yes. What you post on social media may be used against you in court as evidence during a custody battle.
The objective of courts in custody battles is to pursue the best interests of any children involved. To achieve that goal, most courts try and arrange joint custody orders that allow both parents to spend time with their children consistently.
However, certain actions parents take can result in less favorable custody arrangements. For example, if one parent refuses to cooperate with the other to draft a parenting plan, they may lose some esteem in the eyes of the court. In cases where a parent proves themselves unfit to care for a child by engaging in certain activities (such as child or substance abuse), the court may revoke that parent's custody entirely.
Parents can leverage social media to try and sway the court's decision in custody battles. For example, if one parent regularly posts about how much they dislike taking care of their children, even if the posts are intended as sarcasm, they could be used as evidence against that parent's capabilities as a caregiver in court.
In cases where parents use social media posts as evidence against one another in court, the parents are typically estranged and have no intention of collaborating to create a mutually beneficial parenting plan (or court-ordered mediation has failed). In these types of custody battles, the parents put the custody arrangement in the hands of the court.
How the judge presiding over the case weighs social media varies on a court-by-court basis. While one judge might assume a parent joking around on social media is harmless, another may view those same joking posts as an indication that the parent doesn't take caring for their children seriously.
Parents involved in a custody battle should understand that social media can significantly impact the outcome of their case.
Tips for Using Social Media During a Custody Battle
If you're involved in a custody battle, here's how you should conduct yourself on social media:
- Go radio silent (if possible). Unless your job depends on using social media, stop posting until your case gets resolved, and the judge makes a custody order. Above all else, refrain from posting about the custody battle or disparaging your ex on social media (just as you should avoid talking negatively about your ex to your children). The court looks down on such behavior and, depending on the age of your children, it may even be seen as child manipulation.
- Be careful with texts and private or direct messages (PM/DM). If you disparage your ex in a text or a DM and a mutual friend or family member gives that information to the court, it can be used against you as evidence. Speak with your attorney about how you should conduct yourself, but as a rule of thumb, avoid talking about the case with others—even in private.
- Don't delete posts. Deleting posts may be seen by the court as an admission of guilt. Instead, block your ex on social media and set your account to private. If they do dig up a social media post to use against you in court, be honest with the judge about your intentions. They'll value your integrity and appreciate your candor.
If you're engaged in a child custody dispute or will be soon, we'd love to help! Our child custody and visitation attorney has a wealth of experience helping Philadelphia residents fight for their parental rights in court.
To learn more, contact us online or via phone at (215) 515-9901.