It seems we just can’t say it enough: be careful what you post on Facebook. The social media platform has become not just an employee vetting tool but also a courtroom staple for demonstrating users’ true character. Today, the way you use it and what you post could cost you what matters most: time with your children.
Increasingly, family courts are using evidence gleaned from Facebook and other social media when making child custody and placement decisions when parents divorce. They can be used to demonstrate that one parent might represent as the situation or the truth may not be so.
For example, a parent may claim she doesn’t have a drinking or drug issue, but her Facebook page is filled with photos of her partying. Or a parent may say he can’t have placement on Friday nights because he has to work, but Facebook posts or photos indicate he’s someplace else on Friday evenings. Even posts that may reveal emotional instability (a state that’s not terribly uncommon for anyone going through the stress of a divorce, let alone a custody or placement battle) can find its way into courts’ decision making.
You may think that your security settings control who sees your content, but remember Facebook is on the Web. It’s called the World Wide Web for a reason. Plus, the average Facebook user has 120 friends, and when you narrow users down to one country, Facebook Data Science shows most pairs of people are separated by only three intermediate connections. All it takes is for one of your friends to share it, even innocently, and it’s out of your control.
Consequently, Facebook posts are making frequent appearances in family court affidavits.
Additionally, Facebook posts can inadvertently trigger contention with the spouse you’re divorcing. You may be reentering the dating world, but posting about it on Facebook could push your spouse’s buttons, making the process more difficult and more expensive. (The same can be said for your profile showing up on an online dating site before the divorce and important child placement decisions are finalized.)
The same thing goes for bad-mouthing the other parent. Keep in mind that not only could it reach your spouse, it could also reach your child. Even if what you post is true, it could still bring contention to the process and, more importantly, distress your child who may also see it.
When it comes to Facebook posts, perhaps the best rule of thumb is to avoid posting anything you wouldn’t share with your grandma.
Ellen Frantz is an attorney at Johns, Flaherty & Collins. For a La Crosse divorce lawyer, call Ellen at 608-782-1780.