Facebook Faceoff: Social Media, Parenting and Court
In real life, people act differently from the way they normally do when they are preparing for court. After all, who lives life in anticipation of a future custody case months or years away? I call it the “Parent of the Year” syndrome. All of a sudden, when a trial date is scheduled, parents begin doing all kinds of things they wouldn’t normally do in an effort to impress the judge. With a little thought, social media can combine the goals of court and real life parenting into one: the best interest of your child. Two very simple suggestions:
Read what your kids are posting. This seems so obvious, but allow me to illustrate this point. Years ago, my client and I had prepared for our custody case months in advance. Subpoenas were served, trial exhibits were prepared and my client was seated in the courtroom with family members and witnesses. As I’m walking down the hallway behind the courtroom, the other attorney calls me over and showed me the Facebook posts of the young teenager. Not only did he post constantly, but he regularly posted at 2:00 a.m. on school nights, when he was in the care of my client. Worse yet, he evidently enjoyed drinking various types of alcohol, when he was in the care of my client, and made it a point to add that to his timeline. Still worse, he documented his fondness for alcohol on Facebook with several photographs, which were taken, and posted, when he was in the care of my client, who had told me that she regularly checked his account. She hadn’t. Needless to say, the case went downhill from there.
Read what you post BEFORE you post it. Again, on paper, this should be a no brainer. But alas, in real life when people are not thinking about court, they freely post about everything thinking in the back of their minds that what they post is personal. It isn’t. And for heaven sakes, know and use those privacy settings. Another war story makes this point. One of my clients in a custody case brought me print-offs of posts the other parent made when she interacted with their ten year old daughter online. Not only did she and her second husband argue and fight online, complete with filthy profanity of the worst type about intimate subjects, they used the child to mediate between them. Sadly, the daughter was knee deep in the drama, trying to take the side of her mother. Furious, mom wrote for a week or two about what a #@*% her husband was and that all men want is #@*% but he wasn’t man enough to take care of business, etc. The husband responded in equal measure, just shy of a Jerry Springer episode. The ten year old daughter chimed in, using the same language her mom used. Mom and her husband reconciled, and the daughter continued living with him when she was with her mom. These Facebook posts were printed on 8×10 glossy paper and marked as exhibits. We won.