Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Does your social media footprint damage your child custody case?

During the early growth of social media I wrote about the correlation between a parent’s social media footprint and that parent’s contested child custody case. In 2009 I particularly addressed the causal link between social networking postings and adverse outcomes in Social Networking sites make their way into the courtroom.

In this posting I intend to demonstrate that what is often displayed and viewed as innocuous accounts of activities, opinions, or sharing of stories can impinge upon what may be a sound child custody proposal. Through examining how data from social media is mined and configured using a psychological perspective you can better prepare yourself for a courtroom attack on your character; your parental fitness.

Judicial officers will not openly peruse your Facebook page nor are they likely to violate a judicial canon and investigate your background upon their initiative. Submission of social media content does require that a foundation be laid for which such postings may be used as substantiating evidence for a character denunciation.

An obvious way in which social media could be used against a parent is when one went on a fishing vacation to Florida just two weeks immediately preceding a custody hearing. During this time he posted numerous photos of his activities during the week. In each of the photos either this parent or the other subjects in the photos in which he didn’t appear had what was presumably an alcoholic beverage in hand. I advised him to immediately remove all of the photos and any reference to the trip. For those of us who get it, no explanation is needed. He, however, responded by saying that he was of legal age and his child was not with him. Thus, it shouldn’t impact his case. There was nothing subtle about that scenario and the likelihood of it being held against him during the custody hearing.

Now I want to present a much more subtle character cues that can be used to portray a parent as not fit to be a primary custodian of a child and may influence the degree to which parenting time and legal responsibilities are apportioned. I am going to go rather in-depth through numerous examples as this is a subtle concept.

On a social media site a parent makes a comment that prayer should be put back in the schools and that schools should teach children to be respectful. I have read comments like these in response to various aspects of youthful behaviours. In regards to finances I have seen comments which attribute blame for mortgage defaults to bankers; or that the government needs to keep jobs from going overseas so that Americans can earn a sustainable wage. As for health it is that food processors or restaurants are the reason for obesity, or that health is compromised because medical interventions [healthcare as a single word] is exorbitantly priced. Then there is the old standby that drugs are to blame for myriad ills in society which may include that the expressing parent is addicted or that his or her child has problems because of drugs.

All of these and similar assessments fail of logical grounds but that is irrelevant for my purpose here. These opinions all reflect one’s attitude toward responsibility.

They all demonstrate the feelings which are correlated to someone who will shirk responsibility.

Socialization of a child begins at birth. While schools can influence the behaviour or performance of a child, the attitudes that a child develops which underlie behaviour are largely learned through modeling. That is, children learn by watching and infusing the characteristics of behaviour demonstrated by their caretakers and those within their social environment[1].

The method that one may use to avoid foreclosure is so simple and obvious that people fail to see it. It’s similar to avoiding sunburn. Wide hats, chemical sunblocks, or full lightweight clothing may be suggested as the best methods. Over the years I have asked people about what is the best way to avoid foreclosure. Have money set aside in savings, have two incomes, consult an attorney, don’t have a mortgage that exceeds a certain percentage of income, try refinancing, and etc have been some of the responses.

How about don’t go out in the sunlight? How about pay cash for the property? The answers are so obvious and universal that they are overlooked by societal scripting which teaches interdependence and that the self cannot be autonomously responsible.

If one does choose to agree to the terms of a mortgage and be bound to the enforcement procedures of said mortgage, which are a legal prerequisite to a foreclosure, then why would one feel that he, she or others should be absolved from the responsibility of complying with the agreement? The only answer is that the person is irresponsible or lacks a sense of personal responsibility.

Maintaining a sustainable income is easy. It’s purely mathematical. First determine the minimal sustenance cost[2]. Next, find an income source which meets or exceeds that cost. Finally, be responsible enough not to let sustenance plus discretionary expenditures[3] exceed income. Hence complaining that one does not have enough money by which to survive or people can’t afford to live on X wage is effectively stating that one lacks a sense of financially responsibility.

Appearing in court in an obese state may project more information to a judge about responsibility than the opposing party can muster. On its face it says I am not good at being responsible for healthful food consumption decisions. Since nearly every family law judge is well aware that children learn primarily through modeling the obese parent faces a dominant bias. This negative assessment is compounded if it is demonstrated that the parent blames food processors or restaurants for his or her obesity. Automobiles can serve as an ideal analogy to the human body in terms of energy usage and body mass. The longstanding that the equation of calories in/calories out dictates weight is a fallacy. To understand metabolism of calories to fat the equation calories processed/calories expended is appropriate. Another fallacy which is popular but must be dismissed based upon empirical evidence is that genetics cause obesity.

Think of two cars in which one runs on all four cylinders and squeezes every drop of energy out of that gas put in the tank and gets 40mpg. Another has old spark plugs, some leaks in the system, and generally does not process gasoline efficiently, similar to some people who lacks some digestive enzymes or food absorbing tissue. It only gets 20mpg. If both drivers pump the same amount of fuel and drive the same distance then the driver of the first car is going to accumulate unused energy as mass [gas in the car, fat in people]. Thus, each individual must be responsible to eat according to energy processing and expenditure requirements. Likewise, the source that one chooses, deliberately, to supply the energy through foods or food-like edible substances[4] is also the individual’s responsibility.

Whether there is such a thing as “addiction” [a biological necessity] or a highly motivated behavioural decision is still hotly contested in the scientific community. Regardless though, when the deliberate action to do something and the subsequent consequences are attributed to “addiction” this is merely the avoidance of responsibility.

The dosing of nicotine through pyrolysis illustrates the deliberate actions one must take to become “addicted” to harmful substances. For inhaled nicotine this includes overcoming numerous physiological responses such as choking/gagging, nausea, mucosal arrest, heart palpitations, and general acute anxiety type responses - a panic attack feeling. It may actually take some time to work up to [build a conscious resistance to the physiological effects] a pack a day or more. It is very rare that anyone is able to start at that level. Thus, “addiction” is not a consequence but is the result of a deliberate course of action. Blaming someone else of some tenuous convoluted concept for one’s deliberate course of action is also shirking responsibility.

The takeaway from all of this is that if you want a judicial officer to grant to you the immense responsibility and privilege of providing a safe, nurturing, healthful environment and necessary support for a child then you should lay the foundation for that by first demonstrating that you can be responsible for yourself. This includes developing and expressing the concept that you are responsible for your outcome.

If your social media footprint is littered with expressions that you do not feel that you or others should be held accountable [responsible] for the deliberate actions and subsequent consequences and that someone or something else is always to blame then that could be used to stimy your child custody case. I or some other expert could be on the stand expressing an opinion as to how your opinions demonstrate that you may not be a good candidate to be the parent responsible for your child’s well-being.

Lest I conclude by presenting the opinion that your course of action should be to obfuscate any hints that you possess an opinion beholding irresponsibility let me say this. When developing an opinion on a matter consider whether it reflects your actual character and if your character represents that which embraces personal responsibility.

1] In a 1968 study which compared anxiety components of mothers and their children, who were within the age range of twenty-three to sixty months of age, found that the phobia types of the children as well as the total quantity of phobias corresponded significantly to those of the mothers. This 1968 study is important in that it was able to discount genetic factors in that during that era mothers were the primary caregivers.
2] Sustenance is food, clothing, shelter, and non-behaviour related healthcare. For a single person this is easily under $5,000 annually in the United States.
3] Discretionary expenditures are those which exceed sustenance. For humans generally healthful metabolic states can easily be maintained in a 20 degree fahrenheit temperature range [60-80 degrees] or greater Thus heating above 60 or cooling below 80 is discretionary.
4] Foods are substances which feed - nourish. Products which contain “sugar”, artificial flavours or colours, or refined grains are clear indicators of food-like substances which are designed to primarily be a source of calories but not nutrients so as to perpetuate a hunger response. Hunger is satiated by nutrients not calories.

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©2008, 2018 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.


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