Discussion: How Social Media Can Affect a Child Custody Case was last modified: May 10th, 2018 by Howard Iken

how social media can affect child custody florida

Discussion: How Social Media Can Affect a Child Custody Case

Robert Napper

robert napper

Welcome to the Ayo & Iken legal roundtable. We tackle the toughest legal issues with down-to-earth commentary you can use from our expert panel of attorneys spanning the entire Tampa Bay area and Orlando.


In this edition, we will be discussing social media – one of the most dominant forces in today’s society. Social media has seeped so deeply into many people’s daily lives that it stands to reason it can also become a factor when traversing the difficult path of divorce, paternity, and parenting issues. That post you put on the Internet may not seem significant to you but our attorneys recommend that you think long and hard as to whether that is indeed the case.

As you will see our panel of attorneys are passionate about the perils and sometimes upside that social media can bring to bear on a case.


We spoke with our Tampa Attorney Jeana Vogel; St. Petersburg Attorney Claudia Blackwell; and Orlando Attorneys Beth Clause, Jason Ponder, and Jennifer Schulte for their thoughts on social media and how it can affect your case. Here is what we discussed:


Beth Clause

Beth Clause

It’s coming to the forefront. In the past, when I have brought social media up in injunction settings, judges did not really want to hear it. I would basically have a judge respond by telling someone to block that offensive person from your social media account and move on. But I think in the family law sense of things, we are going to be using it quite a bit. Especially in providing evidence of things such as alienation of the children or use of marital assets. I think it’s going to get a lot easier to get social media in as evidence in the future.

Jason PonderJason Ponder

Social media is more and more finding its way into the courtrooms. The ability for people to put their personal lives out into the public has never been more abundant. There is an old adage I tell my clients, “Don’t say anything you don’t want to read in the newspapers the next day.” And it rings true today with social media. It’s important to understand that what you file, send, or post can and generally does make it into the courtroom. Judges are becoming more and more comfortable accepting these things in lieu of testimony.

Robert Napper

robert napper

Why do you think that is, Jason?

Jason PonderJason Ponder

I think the concept or general idea is if you are foolish enough to put things out into the public arena then we should be able to use it to prove or disprove any legal points in a case. My advice is to be careful what you post and understand that what you place in the public eye is probably going to come back and see the light of day.

Robert Napper

robert napper

What kinds of social media can hurt your case?

Jeana Vogel

Jeana Vogel

There are a lot of things people put up on social media not thinking how it could negatively impact their case. An example: I had a trial where the husband came across a nice, lovely photo of the wife on social media smiling away in a vehicle. But what do we also see in the photo? An open container of alcohol in the vehicle. Certainly, the judge was not happy about that and it raises questions about the mother’s morals, as well as possible substance abuse problems.

Robert Napper

robert napper

If social media is something you really enjoy and would find hard to give up, are there any upsides as to how it could affect your case?

Jeana Vogel

Jeana Vogel

Sure, I think there can be pros to social media if you feel you have to use it. If it is showing a consistent lifestyle of family first; photos or posts of you being there for your child and participating in their lives such as positive postings of your children’s accomplishments in school or in sports. Some of the pros in your case could be showing how dedicated of a parent you are. When you have children, family should be your lifestyle and your social media should reflect that.

Robert Napper

robert napper

Overall, do you recommend getting off social media during litigation?

Jeana Vogel

Jeana Vogel

When you are going through a case a lot of attorneys will advise you to delete your social media accounts all together and that may be hard for people in this day and age. I believe if you are going to keep using social media you really need to be conservative about what you post. I often tell my clients to make their accounts private or censor what they are putting on there. Even if you delete something, once on the Internet, always on the Internet. We can likely find it.

Robert Napper

robert napper

Good point, Jeana, on the permanency of things people place on the Internet. Is that something people may overlook?

Jennifer Schulte

Jennifer Schulte

Absolutely. It is a permanent record you may not intend to be out there forever, even if you think you have erased it. Think of a conversation you had with someone where you said something maybe you did not mean or did not want out there. You might say, ‘I hate this person’ in the heat of the moment, or you make negative statements about a person’s parenting skills. The problem is if you post something like that online there is no heat of the moment. It is out there forever and it could be taken by a judge as a permanent state of mind. God forbid when children see some of these derogatory statements people make on social media. The psychological damage a parent can cause by constantly posting on social media about how awful the other parent is very real.

Robert Napper

robert napper

So bottom line if you find social media that can be used to further your case, you are going to use it?

Claudia Blackwell

Claudia Blackwell

I can say firsthand that I have done it. I have used posts on social media showing the opposition is intoxicated or using illegal drugs while they are supposed to be caring for a child. I do it because it shows they are not caring for the child properly. So it is a very effective tactic on my part when I introduce it into evidence. People just do not realize these things can be used against them.

Beth Clause

Beth Clause

Definitely, especially if involves behavior that can affect children. It especially bothers me when someone trashes the other parent on social media and children are exposed to it. When it comes to adults that is one thing, but when it comes to children seeing this stuff, that is not right.

Robert Napper

robert napper

Lastly, what should someone do if they mistakenly post something they later regret, even if they have erased it?

Jason PonderJason Ponder

It is critically important to be very honest with your attorney about what you have done or what you see on social media involving your case. If there is something out there, it is much easier to address if I know about it rather than be blindsided by something the opposition produces. I cannot stress enough that even though you think you have erased something it is very likely it will find its way into court.

Robert Napper

robert napper

Just as I thought before we started! Social media is a dangerous ingredient when mixed with a child custody case. It is always great to get a group of experienced attorneys together and to watch them brain storm. That wraps it up for today. Thanks to the Ayo and Iken legal team for pitching in today. Meanwhile we hope to see our readers come back to the Ayo and Iken roundtable. See you then !

Our specialized content, video, and other informative media are based on input from Ayo and Iken team members,  outside guests, former team members of Ayo and Iken, independent journalists, and subject-matter authorities. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Ayo and Iken. Attorneys that are not current team members at Ayo and Iken may be reached through their member listing on the Florida Bar website: www.flabar.org



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