By: Sarah T. McCain
In this day and age, social media, in one form or another, is ever most lives. Across the age spectrum, a lot of interactions that take place via social media. As with anything else, it comes with both good and bad. The use of social media creates an additional realm to be looked at when it comes to litigating divorce and custody cases. It’s important to realize that the posts you make on social media may have an impact on your family law proceedings. In this article, we will go over those items, as well as look at what technology and social media provisions you may want to incorporate into your divorce or custody agreement.
First, it is important to take a mental inventory of your social media tendencies when entering into a family law case. If you are the type of poster who puts it all out there on social media, be warned that this may be viewed unfavorably by the court if your posts are negative, risqué, or are considered to be disparaging of the other party. You may believe that your postings are separate from the children (if any) in your case, but courts tend to believe that these negative beliefs and statements do not co-exist solely in a bubble on social media. Courts tend to believe that the emotions displayed on social media are not kept solely in the social media world and that they can spill over into emotions or feelings which could be shared with your child. You may also want to consider limiting the pool of individuals who see your posts and removing or blocking those that may report back to the other party.
When posting photos, it’s important to use common sense prior to posting. If your significant other is making claims of partying, don’t post photos of a night on the town. One post may be all it takes to do irrevocable damage to your case; and certainly it will decrease the ability to reach an amicable agreement with the other party. Social media is a great place to share family events with your friends and family, but posting negative comments or photos of your significant other is not helpful to your case and often, privacy settings are not enough protection. #myhusband’sanas*%$_le will get you nowhere.
Second, when putting together a Colorado child custody agreement, especially with pre-teens and teenagers, cell phones and other technology can become issues. Couples are familiar with splitting up expenses for activities and school items, but often, cell phones, tablets, and the bills that come with them are left off the list of divided expenses. The court certainly does not address these items specifically. The court does address the division of extracurricular expenses and activities for children and technological items should/can fall into this category. Once a child has a phone or other device, many parents struggle with these items going back and forth between the homes. Despite payment arrangements, the court will generally consider these items to be the child’s possession. The child should be free to have it at either home and either parent should be free to monitor it in the appropriate fashion. The child should also be free to use the phone to speak to the other parent within reasonable time frames. It is okay to tell the child and the other parent that dinner is a cell phone free time. However, it is not appropriate to take the phone away from the child completely simply to limit access. If the phone is being taken away for disciplinary purposes, that is a parent’s decision but I recommend notifying the other parent and providing alternative number for contact. This will limit future conflict over the phone and parental contact.
As children become more involved with social media, the question may arise as to what content your children will be able to review or which sites or apps they should use. Parents should decide together if they are going to set parental controls or limit specific sites. Parents may also want to consider ensuring that both parents have equal access to all social media sites. Working together in this manner will create a positive dialogue and may help to resolve matters quicker when an inappropriate site is found. Maybe a once a month meeting, in person or by phone, to discuss any technology or social media concerns either of you has regarding your child. Finally, if you see a problem, discuss it, don’t hide it. Deception can hurt down the road should future custody proceedings occur.
Smart use of social media can benefit you in your custody case. More importantly, it can make life more peaceful and functional for you and your children long after. Whether we like it or not, this new web of issues thrust upon us via social media is here to stay.