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Social media use can influence child custody decisions

This is a digital age, and people of all ages and demographics here in Massachusetts are connecting over social media. While the content of the overwhelming number of posts, tweets, and other online communications produced each days is sometimes considered private to the writers, individuals involved in child custody cases may find their social media writings appearing as evidence in court.

The American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers recently released a survey that indicates approximately 4 out of 5 divorce cases in the last year utilized some form of social media communication as evidence. While Facebook, Twitter and other such accounts offer people the opportunity to publish their ideas quickly in a public forum, few people anticipate the lasting power of the digitally written word.

A legal expert offers some guidance on how to avoid publishing damaging information on social media sites. First, writers should assume that judges will see everything the parties to a custody battle publish. Second, parties to a custody dispute should avoid expressing their hostility in digital forums. Third, individuals should be careful of what they share with social media friends, for once a piece of information is shared there is no way to know exactly how far that information will be passed along to others.

While the above-mentioned guidelines appear to be based in common sense, it is alarming how many parents still promulgate detrimental statements about their former or soon-to-be ex-spouses over the internet. While emotions do run hot when a family begins to break down, courts in Massachusetts will always place the best interests of the child ahead of the disputes between the parents. As a result, published social media comments may influence how the courts perceive the suitability of the parents for custody.

Source: The Washington Times, "Email, texting can become a WMD during a divorce or custody case," Myra Fleischer, April 23, 2013

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