How Social Media Can Affect Your Divorce Or Custody Case
Just this week, I was meeting with a client about her custody case when she handed me a printout of her ex’s social media page. I was shocked at the content and how freely he discussed the number of illegal and prescription drugs he was taking to “just get through the day.” He even included pictures of his pipes, other paraphernalia and several pill bottles. Another attorney was with me at the time and his response was “I love that social media has made our jobs so much easier.” He was right. My client walked out of Court with sole legal and sole physical custody of her child.
Sadly, when her ex posted all of those photos he thought they were private, that he was bragging and that they would not affect his parental rights and he was wrong.
As my colleague said, social media has made my job so much easier. I would love to tell my clients to turn their social media off until their children turn 18 but since I know that is not possible, we are hoping clients will use this article to consider their social media postings while going through a divorce or custody case.
1. Your ex is always watching you on social media
Unless you are an internet and social media genius, your ex will find a way to access your social media. You may think you have blocked your ex from your social media accounts and you may have even changed your passwords, but your ex has friends, family, friends of friends, fake accounts, co-workers and a host of other people that can and will find your social media accounts online and provide the contents of those accounts to your ex. If all else fails, your ex can subpoena your social media accounts and can request that you print out the entirety of your accounts in your divorce/custody proceedings. Usually, there is nothing that can be done to stop this. So before you make your next post, consider that everything you are posting, no matter how hard you try, can and will be accessed by your ex.
2. If you have to post don’t brag
Many people use social media to keep friends and family apprised of life events like a great new promotion, a new car or nice vacation. It never fails in a divorce case that I have clients complaining that they are paying too much in child support or spousal support and their ex produces hundreds of social media posts about my client’s recent lavish trip to South America with first class accommodations. Simply, judges don’t like it when clients complain that they cant support their children but can afford to buy a new car or take an expensive trip. If you must use social media, remember Rule #1 above and try not to brag in your posts. Ultimately, the bragging could cost you in increased child support obligations or spousal support obligations.
3. Don’t Post Your Illegal Activities
This one should go without saying. At least once a week, I receive social media posts about a client’s ex, that includes the ex’s involvement in illegal activity (usually drugs). Posting this stuff online, can affect your custodial time with your children as well as your freedom. Judges routinely order drug testing, and have even been known to report a litigant to law enforcement after receiving social media posts with illegal activity. If you have to post on social media, don’t post your pill bottles, pipes and drugs. Just don’t.
4. Don’t Use the “Check-In” Feature
If you have to use social media don’t use the check-in feature. Again, remember Rule #1. If you are using the check-in feature, your ex will be able to trace your movements. If you are supposed to be having custodial time with your children and your “check-in” identifies you out at a club, your ex will use this against you to say you aren’t spending time with the kids or even worse that you are leaving them alone to go out and party. The check-in feature can also be dangerous if you have a restraining order against your ex because now your ex will know where you are. Use caution and common sense and leave the check-in feature out.
5. Don’t Post Anything You Wouldn’t Want Your Boss or Mother to See
Social media posts live forever on-line. That picture you took in high school of a crazy party trick or that Halloween picture where you dressed like a slutty nurse, can and will be used against you, to try to paint you as a bad person or bad parent. Even though those pictures were taken years ago, they last forever online and are easily accessible by your ex. (Rule #1). Your ex will get them and will use them against you and you will have to explain to the judge that the photo was taken years ago and isn’t who you are anymore. Try to keep the posts clean and consider before you post whether you would feel comfortable if your boss or mother saw the post.
For all of these reasons, social media certainly can cause your divorce or custody case to be more costly. Not only will you need to explain these posts to a judge, you could end up spending funds on random drug tests, experts and obtaining evidence to show the judge that the posts aren’t accurate or even true. Hopefully knowing both the emotional financial impact social media can have on a divorce and custody cases will encourage litigants to be more cautious in their actions on-line.