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Does divorce affect your right to ‘sharent’?

Sharenting after divorce

Harmless sharing or a breach of privacy? In this current era of social media, most of us have seen online content featuring other people’s children. Celebrities, influencers, family, friends, and even distant acquaintances, document details of their home lives and the children they’re raising via photos, videos and updates, often referred to as ‘sharenting’.

We’ve been documenting life long before social media. However, the widespread cultural norm of sharing our lives online means that what would previously have been treasured photo albums, family footage and diaries, are now permanent, publicly accessible, digital footprints.

Abi Jones, Associate and member of the South West & Wales family law team at Stowe, explores the debate further and looks at how divorce can affect your right to share your children on social media.

Where do you draw the line?

Maybe you’re marking your kid’s birthday with a nostalgic roundup of photos, sharing the obligatory ‘first day back at school’ snap, or posting snippets of your family holiday. Sharing on Instagram or Facebook is a way of recording these moments for posterity and letting others share in your joy.

But what one parent considers appropriate, the other might feel less comfortable with. Coparents with differing views about sharenting can find navigating the question of how much to share of your chid online, tricky.

The process of divorce or separation can widen the gap between your views and nudge you into addressing how best to manage your child’s online presence.

So, what can you do if you and your ex-partner disagree about how much to share online about your kids?

When you and your ex disagree about sharenting

Formal agreements about how parents will care for their children after they’ve split up are usually made using a child arrangements order, a legal order made via the family court.

However, child arrangements order don’t usually address the boundaries that separated parents set for sharing information about their children online.

The family court isn’t there to enforce uniform parenting styles. Its role is to ensure that parenting meets a basic minimum standard and that each party has an arrangement that prioritises the children’s well-being—emotionally, physically, and psychologically—and supports their relationship with each parent.

However, if one party raises concerns about what is being shared on social media by the other parent, the court may have a view on whether it is appropriate and whether it should continue.

How could Sharenting be included in a Child Arrangements Order?

It’s possible to include agreed sharenting boundaries in a Child Arrangements Order as either a recital, featuring as a condition of contact, or in extreme circumstances it may be included within a Prohibited Steps Order where the online sharing is deemed as particularly detrimental.

What if you or your ex ignores the agreed sharenting boundaries?

The implications of somebody breaching the terms of a Child Arrangements Order or Prohibited Steps Order would depend on the circumstances of the agreement.

For example, divorced parents include restrictions for sharing content about their children online in their Child Arrangements Order, then years later return to court to amend their order to suit their child’s evolving needs. If during proceedings it emerges that one parent violated the agreement, this breach could affect the court’s perception of that parent and have implications for them as the look to make future child arrangements.

Balancing parental rights over children’s right to privacy

There’s ongoing debate about the child’s right to privacy, and whether children should be posted online before they can decide for themselves.

Parents have the authority to make decisions for their children until they turn 16, when they’re typically considered competent enough to make decisions independently. However, there’s a delicate balance between parental decisions and respecting the child’s right to privacy.

These competing rights often clash, and there’s currently no clear-cut answer. Ultimately, those with parental responsibility must exercise discretion in what they share online about their child.

Legalities of sharing social media content without a minor’s consent

Establishing whether the content shared about a child is appropriate can be challenging for the court but if deemed inappropriate, they may order the content to be removed.

In some jurisdictions, children who reach maturity have taken their parents to court for breaching their human rights through “sharenting,” but it would be up to the child to take legal action later.

Other concerns about sharenting

For the cautious, sharenting poses safeguarding concerns including child exploitation, risks related to facial recognition, identity theft and deep fakes, nefarious use by criminals and security risks like tracking via information shared about home and school locations.

Other significant considerations include whether it’s ethical to post content about your child online without their consent, and impinge on their human right to privacy. Not to mention how sharing their personal lives might make them feel now, and in the future.

Get in touch

If you and your ex would like to look into making a a formal agreement about sharing your children on social media, our family law team can help you. Get in touch using the details below.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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As the UK's largest family law firm we understand that every case is personal.

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