Social media rules in parenting plans during divorces?

Social Media RulesA recent stream of articles and paid advertisements from attorneys are pushing you to include social media rules into parenting plans during divorces. This is different than how social media is often being used in court to show someone in negative light or even as a forced means of communication (Skype).

That idea of managing a child’s online footprint is becoming part of the conversations during a divorce and even after custody settlements as social networks become nearly ubiquitous ways of sharing information about one’s life and family.

The above quote is from StlToday in Dec 2012.

Most couples will have one or both sides that maintain multiple social network profiles, mainly Facebook of their own.  It seems that one side of the divorce is now asking that the other not be allowed to post pictures of the kids legally through the final parenting plans.

Once we get past the point of knowing everyone has a network profile somewhere, some couples are even deciding who gets the rights to a shared Facebook page according to recent articles.  Are we implying that the page is an asset of some form when neither party actually owns the page, but share the digital property?  Likely this property is not considered or eligible as intellectual property making the whole battle unreasonable. With technology everyone can copy/export whatever is there and then remove the page. One attorney even recommends this approach:

His firm counsels clients to shut down their social media profiles as soon as they begin considering a divorce. Parents who post questionable pictures that may potentially embarrass a child later might find those same pictures and status updates used against them in court.

What makes one parent think they can control a proud father or mother from posting pictures of themselves and kids? Apparently attorneys are the driving force. Parents react emotionally when running across a picture, video or mention.  A common fear is that a picture or information falls into the wrong hands. We think that a better approach is to consider the security of the postings and not the entire request to remove.  An article from Salt Lake City made a good example of this:

After the divorce is final, parents generally have the right to post what they want about their kids on the Internet, unless child abuse or neglect is involved. But parents can include guidelines about social media in the settlement. For example, they can have a rule about no photographs of the kids until they turn a certain age.

One concern not addressed in any article we could find was the theory that the online profile of a parent, that may be private, is now matter of public record. If my social network settings are controlled and restricted putting these entries, samples and statements into public record actually expose the protected data. This goes against the entire idea of setting some made up policy you can control the others activity online as long as no abuse or neglect is involved.

Here at SocialStalking / TheSocialNetworker we think the parents in these matters should best decide together, out of court record, how they will agree and handle putting pictures of the kids online to meet everyone’s concerns.  We know this is not always feasible, but most anger is not about the kids being safe and can be overcome.  But with no guidelines for this new movement, any blanket policy with restrictions can actually prohibit some good. we agree parenting plans succeed when normal decision-making process fails between parents. Just weigh the extent and how it could affect the child themselves in the long run. This Texas law firm agrees:

Social media is a double-edged sword in divorce. This kind of advancement can bring conflict if not used properly by divorced parents. However, social media may also assist parents in how they can communicate with their children after divorce. If social media is applied positively in a parenting plan, the results may be for the benefit of all involved.

What if the child needs some social presence in late teens to display academic or sports achievements for prospective schools? Would this blanket policy prohibit that? Possibly so if not worded right or done hastily at the direction of an attorney using boilerplate language they invented. Many schools love being able to see web displays of sports highlights, school projects and more as the field becomes more competitive.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Should parents be able to restrict the other parents social media activity through parenting plans?

  • ColleenBurns

    Really interesting topic, Chris! I think if you have concerns the other parent would post questionable photos and lack good judgment around social media, you have much bigger issues on your plate. Social behavior online is really just an extension of how you behave in life. (That said, anger during divorce can cause a lot of unreasonable requests and mandates).

  • http://TheSocialNetworker.com IdoNotes

    Glad you like the thought process. There are rare times it might be necessary but common sense says the attorneys are pushing these with no basis and boilerplate mentality. I only say that after reading abiut 35 attorney sites across the US that specifically talk about it before writing.

  • http://twitter.com/hatchedit HATCHEDit.com

    Very compelling. Not many people think about this (single mom here. lol) – but I actually created a social network that divorced/separated parents should actually share! We think there are lots of families of all stripes and sizes that need better coordinating tools – after all custody scheduling issues set off most arguments – and its always great if a divorced family can remember they are still a family. We hope that we have built a private, safe, closed social network where divorced families can find a way to be (semi) whole online in managing their family. We would love for you to check us out (www.hatchedit.com) Thanks!

  • Abi Jones

    My father tried to use facebook against me during my parents divorce. Thanks to http://alanrstewart.com/ my family was able to fix the issues that he had. But it’s amazing what impact social media can have on a persons life.

  • http://TheSocialNetworker.com IdoNotes

    I sure will. Interesting niche network idea