Regardless of how anyone might try to spin it, a child custody battle is an emotional roller coaster that most parents would rather avoid altogether. Custody hearings are personal. They end up hurting different members of your family. And they will take up a lot of your time.
Most custody cases quickly grow into ugly affairs, in which both sides stop at nothing to damage the credibility of the other. It’s a cold, merciless war – legal, but still a war all the same. So, if you’re wondering whether or not your social profile can be used to affect the outcome of your custody case, the answer is rather obvious.
In recent years, information posted on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace has been used in child custody cases. More importantly, in many of these cases, the information shared on these social websites has ended up being the tipping factor behind the court’s final decision.
Social profiles are so important that they’re among the first things detectives investigate when building a case for their clients. The argument is that your social profiles – where you aren’t being judged or watched by the court – offer the best window into gauging your true feelings, behavior or lifestyle. Knowing this, investigators can gather the comments or pictures that your ex-partner has posted to his or her social profiles and report their findings back to your lawyer in order to discredit the other party’s arguments in court.
When it comes to child custody cases, private detectives are often considered to be “Expert Witnesses.” Therefore, their word is influential in trial. Additionally, they have access to multiple databases that can search email address, social media outlets, name investigations and a number of other factors that can help uncover profiles you might not have even known existed, further assisting you when it comes to winning custody.
How Can This Happen?
So yes, to answer the initial question, it’s clear that your social profiles can end up affecting the success of your custody case. To put things into perspective, consider the following examples of real life scenarios where a social profile ended up being the tipping point behind the judge’s ultimate decision:
- Case One – A husband denied in court that he struggled with anger management – an issue which would, understandably, diminish his chances of winning custody. The opposing counsel, however, discredited his stance by showing a Facebook comment that he had shared on his profile, which stated, “If you think you have the balls to get in my way, I will kick your ass until you submit.”
- Case Two – Drug use is a frequent reason why mothers can lose custody of a child. A mother in court insisted that she was the right choice for custody because she had never used drugs or any illegal substance. However, pictures of her smoking a joint were found on her Facebook profile and successfully used against her in her hearing.
- Case Three – A father claimed that he was unable to pay child support because he was broke. However, the court was presented pictures that he had posted on his online profile, showing him on a luxury cruise and driving a Ferrari. As a result, he lost the case.
- Case Four – A mother claimed she was not seeing a new partner, however, an investigation uncovered she was in a committed relationship with a different person. Her Facebook profile showed not only photos with the individual, but an engagement ring! After investigating her future fiancé further, our investigators uncovered that he had a criminal record and should not be around children.
In each of these cases, investigators were able to use the pictures and comments posted on social media accounts to affect the outcome of each trial. This is notable, as it indicates that the judges believed that information found on social pages was a truer reflection of a person’s character than his or her opinions and views, as stated in the courtroom.
Even the Lies Hurt
Of course, not everything posted on a Facebook is true. But even posting a false comment – or something posted out of anger in the heat of the moment – can come back to haunt you in court. For instance, consider a recent child custody case in which a mother who was seeking custody of her children joined Match.com and posted that she was single and without children. The opposing attorney in her case used this as evidence to show that she was unprepared and uninterested in taking care of her kids.
All of this merely emphasizes the importance of being prepared and taking the right protective measures before embarking on a custody case. There really is no limit to how damaging a social profile can be, as courts can use the information found there as a reflection of your spending habits, religious views, parental ability and financial status. Too many people make the mistake of believing that the social media world is completely unconnected to “real world” of everyday life. It isn’t. Everything you post in cyber space can, in fact, make its way into the courtroom.
Really, the only way to protect yourself against this kind of attack is to carefully screen your social profiles and perform a complete “house cleaning” of all your accounts. To do this, we recommend hiring an “online reputation manager,” which is actually different than a PI. Internet reputation managers can help ensure that your past internet indiscretions don’t come back to haunt you.
On the flip side, a private investigator can also be hired to discredit the other party by finding any incriminating photos, status updates or other determinate information that might help to prove character flaws in the opposing party.
Finally, it’s a good idea to avoid posting anything regarding your life or your family until your custody case is completed. While we understand how much people want to post and share their lives online with their friends, these actions can hurt your case. Even if you don’t write anything negative, if your friends comment certain inappropriate remarks on your profiles or tag you in not so flattering photos, this can be a huge setback in your child custody battle.
Like it or not, everything you post online can be monitored by your ex-spouse and his or her legal counsel. You also never know if you are being “cat fished” by a private investigator that was hired by the opposing party. If these people find anything that can be used against you, rest assured that they’ll take advantage of this information.
So when it comes to child custody cases, know that it’s often the little details that help seal the deal. If you’re involved in this type of legal matter, think carefully about what you post before you do so. As a parent, your job isn’t to make it easier for your former partner to defeat you in court. It’s to protect your children and do what’s best for them – both in the long and short term.