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Updating your status could cost you custody of your children

When it comes to child custody, the Florida courts focus on "the best interests of the child." If a judge believes that your personal life puts those interests in jeopardy, your ability to obtain sole or joint custody could suffer. You might not consider that what you, your friends or your family posts on Facebook could hurt your chances, but you would be wrong.

My Facebook page is private, right?

Facebook and other social media sites do not provide as much privacy as you think. Further, the information on your page actually belongs to Facebook, and it and other social media sites must comply with subpoenas under certain circumstances. Even if you block the other parent and set your privacy settings as high as possible, no guarantee exists regarding what the other parent might find. Even if you take these precautions, connections to your friends and family might remain.

This increases the possibility of the other parent finding potentially damaging posts and photographs of you. For example, a photograph of you holding a drink in a bar that your friend posted could end up in the hands of the judge, which puts your character in question. A post about a vacation you took could also indicate the current state of your finances to the court. Even a change in your relationship status on Facebook provides clues to your life.

More family law attorneys are turning to social media sites to gather evidence in divorce, child custody and support cases. Even the appearance of impropriety on your part threatens your case.

Be careful, though. You do not have the right to access the other parent's page.

Be sure not to get into the other parent's Facebook account to look for damaging evidence on your own. Since permission is required to access his or her computer legally, the judge could rule anything you find inadmissible. If you believe evidence against the other parent to be on his or her Facebook account, legal processes exist to gain access to the information.

In addition, deleting information from your Facebook page makes you look guilty of something as well. Also, just because you deleted photos or posts does not eliminate the possibility of retrieval of the information by Facebook or by a computer professional.

Staying off Facebook and other social media sites during the negotiations of a parenting plan or during the court process helps reduce the possibility of the other parent finding information that potentially threatens your case. This reduces the chances of anything damaging making it into the courtroom or disrupting your efforts to come to an agreement outside the courtroom. Tell your family and friends not to post statuses or photos pertaining to you and your situation. You maintain more control of the information that gets to the other parent by doing so.

An attorney can further explain the dangers and uses of social media sites, such as Facebook, when it comes to child custody and other family law matters.

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