Social Media and Custody Decisions: What’s Trending?

by Ashley LoPresti

Social Media Logos
Social Media Logos, found via

We live in a time where social media has run rampant. Different social media platforms have progressed and advanced, and now, all of its users are achieving their goals of showing the world glimpses of their life – the glimpses they want the world to see, that is. The advent of social media caused an influx of careers for influencers, which also contributed to the ‘bragging’ or ‘flexing’ on social media platforms that users tend to do. 

We show off our new, fancy foreign cars and designer clothes with hopes of getting likes and comments from our social circles in return. We may show off elaborate dinner dates, or like some celebrities, the expensive bills that result from those dinners. We may think that these things look impressive or show others that we are successful, but in reality, it can cause further issues in our private lives than the standard user tends to think about before clicking that ‘post’ button.

For the everyday user, we may choose to educate others, or express our political/religious views through social media in hopes that we can make connections with other like minded users. For some, this may work, and create a new network of friends for them to banter with. For others, like the mother in the court case Dexter v. Dexter out of the Ohio Court System, it lands them in further legal trouble. 

In Dexter v. Dexter, the mother appealed a custody decision which granted custody of their daughter to the birth father, stating that she felt “the trial court erred in interjecting its own biases regarding her lifestyle and religious choices when making its custody determination.” Excerpt from “DOES THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA EVIDENCE IN FAMILY LAW LITIGATION MATTER?” authored by Marcia Canavan and Eva Kolstad.

Ohio State Court of Appeals
Ohio State Court of Appeals, found via

The appellate court upheld the divorce court’s decision in granting custody to the father, and after examining the mother’s social media accounts, it’s clear to see why. The court, through evaluating the mother’s own personal blog, her MySpace account postings, and other platforms, found the following information that would jeopardize the health, safety, and welfare of the daughter at issue:

  1. The mother practices sado-masochism, which is defined by Merriam-Webster, is the “derivation of sexual gratification from the infliction of physical pain or humiliation either on another person or on oneself.”
  2. The mother admitted to previous drug usage, and even stated that she plans on continuing usage of drugs after the trial, including when her daughter is sleeping in her house. 

This is just one example of social media’s influence on custodial matters. As the usage of social media is becoming an everyday feature in our lives, there will be more mentions of social media posts in evidence for custody trials. Just think of a parent who says they can’t pay their court ordered child support, then posts a picture on Instagram of their new designer purse or designer watch. 

I believe that in this case, the custodial issue was fairly addressed and that there was no reason for the mother to bring this to a higher court. We all make our own decisions, and unfortunately, those decisions can harm others without it being our intention of doing so. In this case, her decision to be involved in these practices does jeopardize the safety of her child, and she should not be the custodial parent for said child. If the individual is posting on social media to the public, there cannot be an adequate claim made regarding privacy rights for those posts being utilized in court proceedings. I think that we knowingly and willingly post this information, so there should be no problem with these posts being utilized in the name of justice.

Social media postings are important because they show the world a different version of yourself, much like your work personality may be different from the personality you take on at home. Social media has shown us through many different celebrity scandals time and time again that their posts will come back and harm them, and it’s clear to see that the everyday users are not immune to that treatment either.

Image of Judge’s Gavel in Court Room via