Dear Dr. Jann– My daughter’s father and I broke up about six months ago and we have been in a custody battle ever since. About two months ago I met a new guy and we are thinking about moving in together. When my ex found out he went crazy and started this ridiculous campaign to take my child away from me. He is posting the most outrageous things on Facebook, threatening me, calling me terrible names, and out-and-out lying about things that have never happened. I don’t know what to do. Will this affect his chances of getting full custody? Will it affect mine?
Sincerely– The Social Media Slandered Mom
Dear Social Media Slandered Mom,
You’ve actually raised two important questions.
- Does living with someone new or moving on quickly affect custody?
- Does badmouthing through social media affect custody?
In answer to your first question, living with someone rarely affects your ability to share custody of your child. The only disclaimer I would make is if your new partner has a criminal history or anything that might put your child in danger—then a judge might take that into consideration when deciding on custody.
If your co-parent is using social media to harass or threaten you–let there be no mistake—it is admissible in court during a custody hearing. Using social media improperly could very well impact the custody of a child, it depends on the post(s) in question. The judge almost always looks to the parent with the most reasonable judgment and willingness to get along, for the sake of the child. So, if one parent is posting negative comments about the other parent on social media, this doesn’t reflect good judgment or willingness to get along and almost always showcases hostility that needs to be addressed.
If social media is being used for either parent to vent, rally the troops to your side, or affect peoples opinions of one another… a judge may very well determine that your goal is to get revenge and not to be a good co-parent to your child. You will then have to plead your case as to why badmouthing your child’s other parent in a public forum is in the child’s best interest. It won’t matter how justified you are in your anger or what the other parent did, a judge only cares about how your behavior affects the child.
It is doubtful that smearing your child’s other parent through social media will ever be determined to be positive. It demonstrates poor judgment and lack of self-control—two important traits needed when properly parenting children.
By the same token, social media can be a huge asset to coParenting. All you need to do is stay positive and never make your feelings public… especially for the sake of your child.
I often remind battling parents that if custody is left up to a judge and if all is perceived equal, the deciding factor is frequently based on which parent is most likely to foster a positive relationship between the child and the OTHER parent. If the court determines that a parent will undermine the relationship between parent and child in any way, supervised visits may be ordered to protect the child.
Finally, all co-Parents must be mindful of this very simply truth: It’s not mom against dad—or dad against mom, but both of you for your child. If you are in a custody “battle, one of you may “win,” but anyway you look at it, your child will ultimately lose.