Busted: Mistakes You Can Make on Social Media During a Divorce or Custody Battle
By Michael J. Costantino, Esq.
Advice on what someone going through a divorce or custody battle should do on Social Media to avoid incriminating themselves!
There are so many different way for an individual to leave there digital DNA in today’s thoroughly interconnected society by social media. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Vine, Foursquare to LinkedIn, a spouse or significant other is able to keep up with you and observe your activities very closely. Don’t be fooled because you think your spouse or significant other is no longer a “friend.” He or she may know some of your friends that are more sympathetic to their cause, than they are to your cause. When going through a divorce, or a modification of custody or child support, you need to be aware of possible pitfalls in utilizing social media sites too freely.
It is the evidence, the “stuff” that can be entered in court, from the various websites, mentioned above, and your own digital devices that can make or break your case. This evidence is becoming more and more common in the courtroom. Therefore, what can you do to avoid some basic common mistakes?
Don’t Text Message Angry!
As I have said in my earlier post, The Do’s and Do Not’s of a Divorce/Paternity Case, DO NOT text or e-mail something you do not want to come out in Court. However, let me expand on that. It is not just the content of your message, but also the amount of text messages you send. A person that sends 40 texts messages in a day can be, and most likely would be, considered a cyber-stalker. Therefore, my advice, do not continue to message your spouse or significant other as though they were your friend or buddy.
As to the content of your text message, never put anything in a text message that you would not send directly to the judge. Never threatened to harm somebody. Never make admissions that you refuse to abide by an order of the court. In general, send nothing to your spouse, or significant other, that you may find to be embarrassing if the judge was to read it.
I recently had a case where the mother sent text messages to her daughter. These text messages were very damaging to her case, as they made derogatory remarks about the child’s father, and the father’s girlfriend. The most damaging aspect of this text message was the receiver. Never send text messages to your children about the case.
Posting All The Good Stuff Can Get You Into Hot Water.
One of the ways we challenge somebody’s income, in a case involving support, whether alimony or child support, is by examining recent purchases. Therefore, do not put on Facebook how nice the cruise was. You should not be tweeting about how good that new restaurant is. You should not be posting pictures of your new boat anywhere on the Internet. If child support or any other financial issues are pending, you want to avoid these difficulties.
In addition, flaunting your financial success in the face of your spouse or significant other will create the desire for them to do everything in their power to come after you. I will never tell you to hide anything, especially from the court, I am saying you should keep a low digital profile.
I had a case where the mother was required to pay child support to the father, who I represented. Though mother had “unfriended” my client on Facebook, my client knew somebody that was still a friend with his former wife. Though the mother claimed a difficult life, and hardship, after I had questioned her about the items on her “Facebook wall” the court had no problem finding her in contempt and ordering her to pay my fees.
Posting pictures, and videos, of yourself intoxicated or using what appears to be illegal substances is not advisable. Though we truly cannot prove, as it is a video or picture, what you are actually doing, it certainly does not paint a lovely picture for the court. Likewise, a picture of a friendly social gathering may not be so bad, however, if you are wearing one of those hardhats with two beers, one on each side, and tubes running down to your mouth, once again it certainly does not paint a good picture for the court. Do not post any pictures or videos that you do not want the judge to see.
Checking In – Again?
I have never been a big fan of letting the world know that I am not at home. If you must check-in, make sure you check-in when you are free from other obligations, such as spending time with your children. You do not want to be portrayed as a person that is too busy to be spending time with his or her children.
In addition, imagine how it looks if you check-in at a different bar each night of the week. What will the impact be on your case? Is socializing more important than your children? Are you an alcoholic? Checking in at bars, clubs, and other social establishments that serve alcohol can be used as evidence to depict your drinking and social habits as “unhealthy.”
A Final Note
The objective is to minimize your digital footprint and clean up your digital DNA. You should examine your digital life style, and perhaps remove pictures and delete posts as necessary to remove the embarrassing information. When you are in a divorce, or any other type of family litigation, it is imperative that you do not simply surrender the embarrassing and harmful information to the public and your adversary.
You cannot, must not, lose your composure with your spouse or significant other and “go off on them.” Do not be provoked into making regretful statements on Facebook twitter or any other social media, or from your own digital device. The object is to keep your digital profile low and keep your digital DNA to yourself.