We have previously spoken on this blog about the best interests of the child standard and how critical it is for judges when making child custody determinations. One of the things that can sometimes come into consideration when making best interests determinations is the way a child's parents use social media. In a time when so many people use Facebook and similar websites, it is important to consider how one's use of social media could impact court proceedings.
Increasingly, comments made online are being used in divorce and child custody cases. Because of the frankness with which people sometimes communicate online, there is the potential that online comments can be used in court to show that a parent may not be the best person to take custody of a child, whether because they demonstrate a propensity to violence, mental instability, or because of some other factor impacting the child's best interests.
One example of this kind of thing could be online comments which demonstrate a parent's efforts to alienate the other parent from the child's affection. Under Arizona law, family court judges are allowed to take into consideration "which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent." Facebook comments which speak to this issue could potentially affect a custody determination.
Another example would be online threats or suggestions of a desire to inflict harm on the other parent. Arizona judges are allowed to consider "whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse" when making custody determinations, as well as whether a parent's mental and emotional stability in relating to the other parent. All of this can impact a child's well-being, and judges are allowed to factor it in when determining custody.
In our next post, we'll continue looking at this issue.
Source: Arizona Legislature, "Legal decision-making; best interests of child," Dec. 10, 2014.
phoenix.com, Supreme Court considers Facebook threats case," Sam Hananel, Dec. 2, 2014.