In the digital age, society is thoroughly interconnected by social media. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Vine, Foursquare to LinkedIn, people are able to keep up with practically anyone and observe the activities in each other’s lives like never before. When going through a divorce or a modification of custody or child support, parties need to be aware of possible pitfalls in utilizing social media sites too freely.
It is becoming more and more common for evidence from such sites to pop up in court, and many judges are allowing screenshots, text messages, Internet photos and other similar items to be admitted as exhibits. Below are some common mistakes people make via social media during their divorce proceedings.
Text message abuse
Arguing via text, sending harassing / abusive messages (such as name-calling or texting 40 times an hour to “check in” on your ex) or similar actions can harm your case. Text messages can be introduced as evidence in many jurisdictions, so a good rule to live by is simply not to send a text that would be embarrassing for the judge to read at your next hearing. Over the long-term, appropriate texting will help you maintain a civil co-parenting relationship through healthier communication with your ex.
Posting photos of your new car, sports season tickets, trip to Hawaii, etc.
Especially when child support or other financial issues are pending, you want to be careful not to brag about recent purchases or monetary accomplishments for two reasons:
- Your ex can use it to call into doubt your income level; and
- You may not want to portray the image that you are making a “braggable” amount of money if your ex is claiming financial difficulties and asking for higher maintenance or child support.
Again, avoiding such public displays can also help keep the peace between you and your ex. Divorce can be financially burdensome for all involved, and you probably wouldn’t appreciate seeing similar photos or purchases by your ex.
Checking in your location on social media sites
This is not as obvious as some other social media hazards, but depending on where you are going, it can still impact your case. For example, if you advise your ex that you can’t exercise additional parenting time when it has been offered to you, and then you check in at a social hot-spot, your ex could try to imply that you find socializing more important than your parenting time (even if you had made plans several weeks ago, were celebrating a special occasion, etc.). Checking in at bars can also be used as evidence to depict your drinking and social habits as “unhealthy.” Further, if domestic violence has been an issue in your marriage, it would probably be best to keep your exact location on a need-to-know basis.
Pictures of social events, drinking, drug use or referencing the same
While having a few drinks during your free time isn’t illegal, posting photos of you bonging beers or statuses about getting wasted on a regular basis doesn’t necessarily invoke confidence in stability and maturity from a judge’s perspective. It may seem like common sense, but make sure to keep private events in your life private.
Blogging about your case
Again, this information can be deemed as admissible evidence in many courts. Don’t vent your frustrations about the judge, your ex or the tenor of your case for the world to access. While it may be tempting and cathartic to express yourself in a public journal, it can give off the image that you aren’t taking the court proceedings seriously enough. The judge likely won’t look fondly on any postings that disparage your ex, since the courts want both parties to work hard at offering mutual respect. Additionally, the courts want civil co-parents if children are involved, and trashing your ex online doesn’t exactly begin the divorced relationship on amicable terms.
At the end of the day, having responsibility and common sense temper use of social media can keep you out of harm’s way from a litigation standpoint. Before you post, tweet, text or record, think: If I put that out in the social media world, how would a judge feel, or how will this affect my kids?