Divorcing Parents Fight; over How Children Are Shown in Social Media

By Sultan, Aisha | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Divorcing Parents Fight; over How Children Are Shown in Social Media


Sultan, Aisha, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Stacy Thibodeaux was furious when she discovered pictures of her children on her ex-husbands online dating profile soon after they divorced.

I went through the roof, Thibodeaux, 45, of St. Peters, remembers. She confronted her ex, saying it wasnt appropriate to have their young childrens images on Match.com.

She says he simply blocked her from viewing his profile.

Thibodeaux, who has now been divorced for nearly five years and has recently remarried, said she realized she could not control what her ex-husband did with their childrens pictures. But, had it occurred to her during the divorce, it may have been helpful to have established some ground rules about their childrens digital exposure as part of the custody agreement, she said.

That idea of managing a childs 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 ones life and family.

Social media has become a very big issue in all aspects of divorce, said Alton Abramowitz, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. 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. It speaks to poor parental judgment, he said.

Even married people can post things about their kids that the other person may not be happy about, Thibodeaux said. Its harder when youre divorced because youre already at odds with one another.

St. Louis-area attorney Josh Knight faced a scenario with a client whose ex-wife wanted to prohibit him from sharing any information about their children on social networks. Knight said that, barring special circumstances, he would argue against such a blanket rule.

In our highly mobile world, it is sometimes the best way to share photographs and information about children with family members and friends who do not live in the area. That being said, a party should be careful to take all possible precautions in order to avoid messages and images from falling into the hands of someone who was not designated to receive them, he explained in an email.

Theres certainly room for compromise, says Stephanie Williams, clinical director with Kids in the Middle, a nonprofit education and support group in St. Louis for families going through a divorce.

She suggested parents consider parameters, such as different privacy settings to control who could see certain types of information, and work toward an agreement on the type of content that can be shared and what is off-limits.

Its really about understanding what the concerns are behind it, she said.

Thats the approach that Meredith Friedman, of Creve Coeur, took when she and husband separated five years ago. Her children were 7 and 8 years old at the time, and their father had strong concerns about their online privacy.

We decided together not to put our kids on Facebook, she said. He convinced her that it was more of a security issue. Now that their children are older, they do include some family pictures on their pages.

texting touted as useful

But, in many cases, Facebook ends up causing more grief for divorced co-parents than good, Williams said. …

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