When parents are fighting over child custody after a separation or divorce, a parent may go to great lengths to get the upper hand in court. This can include gathering evidence from past social media posts or activities, even if they happened before the individual ever became a parent. Even if you think your social media post has been deleted, evidence can be gathered from social media companies to be turned over for the judge to consider in your child custody case.
A single picture on Facebook or Instagram post can give a very inaccurate picture of who you are as a parent and should not be used as the basis for determining child custody, visitation, and child support. If you have questions about how social media posts can impact your child custody case, contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm for a case evaluation in Raymore, Missouri.
What Kind of Social Media Activity Can Be Used Against You?
Social media services are pervasive throughout the daily life of many people. Even if you are not using Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, others may be taking photos or video of you and your activities in public and posting them online.
In making a decision on child custody plans and visitation in a Missouri divorce, the court is primarily concerned with the safety and well-being of the child. The court will consider all relevant factors in deciding what is in the child's best interests, including:
- The physical and mental health of both parents;
- History of abuse (whether it is physical, verbal, or emotional) or neglect; and
- Each parent's willingness to encourage the child to maintain a healthy relationship with the other parent.
Physical and Mental Health
A divorce or separation can be a very difficult and emotional period. The prospect of such a major life change may make someone say or do things they never normally would have done. Some people make threats of self-harm or suicide to the other person in an attempt to get them back. Messages or social media posts threatening suicide or other violence could be taken very seriously by the court, even if the person never intended to go through with anything.
Drug and Alcohol Use
Drug and alcohol use may signal to the court that a parent has a substance abuse problem or may get into a situation where they will be unable to care for their child. Unfortunately, a few photos or videos from the past can come back to haunt a responsible parent. Videos of college parties, showing a house party where people are smoking marijuana, or showing the parent acting drunk at a bar can be taken out of context.
Physical and Mental Health
Evidence of mental, physical, verbal, or sexual abuse is taken very seriously by the courts in a child custody case. Similarly, pictures or video that appears to show the child being neglected can greatly impact a child custody case.
Encouraging the Child Against the Other Parent
Arguments between the parents should be handled by the parents and not involve the children. Any social media activity where the parent talks negatively about the other parent may indicate the parent is not encouraging a healthy relationship with the other parent.
Can I Just Delete My Accounts or Posts?
Once something exists on the cloud, it can be difficult or impossible for a regular user to delete an image, post, message, or video. In many cases, users think they are taking a picture that will stay on their phone but is actually uploaded to the social media company's servers. The other parent in a child custody case may file a request for any social media files that may be relevant to the child custody case.
Some more security-conscious app users may try and use end-to-end encrypted social media services like Signal, WhatsApp, or Viber. However, when sending a message to another person, that other person can still access the message. Supposed temporary apps like SnapChat may only allow access to a message for a short period of time or limited viewing but the recipient may still be able to take a picture or screenshot the image.
The court may not be too interested in posts where the parent is complaining about the other parent used foul language or made an inappropriate joke. However, if the parent is claiming the other parent put the child at risk of harm, is involved in physical or sexual abuse against a child, or has exhibited violence against children or others, the court may be much more active in trying to get evidence of the social media activities.
Time and Location Stamps Without the Child
Even if your social media history does not show anything negative about your parenting, a lot of social media information contains time and location information. This may show your location when the social media post was made and the date and time. If you were supposed to be taking care of your child and there is a post from that same time at a gaming casino, there may be questions about who was taking care of the child at the time.
Experienced Raymore Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about how your social media use might affect your child custody case in Missouri, The Joshua Wilson Law Firm is here to help. Contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm today by calling (816) 331-9968 or fill out our online form.