Divorce affects more than just the two parties dissolving their marriage. In many cases, the couple’s children are also involved and affected by the end of their parents' marriage.
Ideally, parents can work together to decide on custody arrangements that best suit their child's needs. However, if parents are unable to reach a consensus, the court steps in to determine the custody arrangements. In these cases, the court's primary consideration is the child's best interest.
In this blog, we discuss factors that the court considers when making its final determination concerning custody. Before reading, check out this video from Attorney Robert that discusses custody decisions in divorce cases and the importance of healthy communication with your co-parent.
Factors the Court Considers in Child Custody Cases
As discussed, the court prioritizes the best interest of the child and will work to allow both parents to be a part of their child’s life if in their best interest. When determining what is in the best interest of the child, the court may consider the following factors:
- The child’s physical and emotional needs
- Each parent’s willingness to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent
- Each parent’s parenting abilities and current parental responsibilities
- Each parent’s ability to provide a safe, healthy environment for their child
- The child’s wishes (if they are 12 years of age or older)
- Any allegations concerning child neglect, child abuse, family violence, or substance abuse
- Any other factors the court considers relevant
Texts & Social Media Can Be Used Against You in Court
As mentioned, texts and online content can be used as evidence in court. The most common types of texts and social media content that could potentially be used as evidence include:
- Text communication. Text messages between parties can be used to show a pattern of behavior or to highlight specific incidents.
- Emails. Similar to text messages, emails can provide context about the relationship between the parties involved.
- Direct messages (DMs). Private messages sent via social media platforms can also be used as evidence.
- Posts. Public posts on social media platforms can be used to demonstrate a person's character, lifestyle, or behaviors.
- Comments. Comments made on posts can reveal attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that may impact a custody case.
Interpretation of Messages, DMs, Posts, or Comments
The interpretation of these types of content is crucial. What might seem like an innocent message or post can be twisted to form a particular narrative. For example, a photo of you having a drink at a party may be interpreted as evidence of substance abuse. A heated text exchange with your ex-spouse could be construed as evidence of an inability to communicate effectively or a tendency towards aggression.
To mitigate the risk of negative usage of your social media content, consider the following:
- Practice caution. Be mindful of what you post online. Avoid posting anything that could be misinterpreted or used against you.
- Check your privacy settings. Regularly review and update your privacy settings to limit who can see your content.
- Avoid conflict. Try not to engage in heated exchanges over text or social media. These conversations can easily be taken out of context.
Other Types of Evidence Commonly Used in Custody Cases
In addition to communication between parties and posted online, the following can be used as evidence:
- Witness testimonies. These are statements from individuals who can attest to the character and parenting skills of the parent. This can include family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, or childcare providers.
- Physical evidence. This can include items like photographs, audio or video recordings, or other tangible items that show the parent-child relationship or the living conditions of the child. Texas is a one-party consent state for audio recordings, which means a spouse can record a conversation he or she is having with another spouse without that spouse's knowledge or consent; however, great care should be taken to ensure that there are no recordings of any conversation in which the recording party is not a participant.
- Medical records. If there are health concerns related to the child, medical records can be crucial evidence. This can also apply if one parent has a medical condition that might impact their ability to care for the child.
- School records. These can provide information about the child's performance, behavior, and attendance at school, which can indicate the level of involvement and support from the parent.
- Police reports. If there have been any legal issues involving the parent, such as domestic violence, DUIs, or other criminal activity, police reports may be used as evidence.
- Psychological evaluations. In some cases, courts may order psychological evaluations of the parents and/or child to assess mental health, parenting capabilities, and the child's emotional needs.
- Each party's financial records. These records can demonstrate a parent's financial ability to provide for the child's needs.
- Visitation logs and Calendars. If visitation has been arranged, logs showing when and how often visits occur can indicate the level of commitment and involvement of the non-custodial parent.
If you are involved in a child custody case, contact Epstein Family Law via phone at (972) 232-7673 and schedule a case consultation. We can help you fight to achieve the best possible case results for you and your child.