The way you conduct yourself on social media websites can often hurt your divorce case. As a general rule, staying off of social media before, during or after your divorce is a best practice, but if you cannot achieve total abstinence, consider the following tips and things you should never do:
- Don’t announce your divorce or change your “status.”
Although it can be tempting, do not publicize/broadcast the news of your divorce on social media. This can be particularly hurtful if one spouse is not aware, or if friends and family are not aware, and it can have negative impact upon one’s children. Suddenly changing your status to single will only invite questions, comments and problems. Likewise, if you are already divorced and receiving support, be very careful in announcing new relationships (implicitly or explicitly).
- Don’t disparage your soon-to-be ex (or his/her new girlfriend/boyfriend).
Although tempting, do not announce what a “jerk” your ex is or disseminate personal details of how you were wronged or how horrible he or she may be. Be careful that you do not end up accused of libel or defaming one’s character. This can lead to restraining orders or other severe consequences.
- Don’t incriminate yourself.
Be careful what you post about yourself, your thoughts and your actions. Regardless of security or privacy settings, you never know who may be able to access your information. There could be criminal consequences.
- Don’t spy on your soon-to-be ex.
If you are blocked on social platforms by your soon-to-be ex-spouse or former spouse, it is not a good idea to create factious profiles to “snoop” for information, or to have friends or family do so on your behalf. Be careful how you obtain information, and consider whether or not it can be legally used.
- Don’t brag.
Frequently, social media is used to brag about job promotions, new outfits, vacations, etc. When financial issues are in dispute, such boasting can often create issues for your case. By way of example, a spouse who claims an inability to afford to pay child support should not post a picture of a new sports car on Facebook (this actually happened). This will not only affect your credibility with the Court and your lawyer, but also lead to potentially disastrous consequences.
- Don’t share your life’s every detail.
Even though there may not be any legal repercussions to having a boyfriend or girlfriend, going out to dinner, having a cocktail at a party, etc., all of these things could impact custody and parenting time, particularly if maliciously manipulated. They can also cause jealousy and anger, which may make your spouse less cooperative.
- Don’t use passive-aggressive quotes/meme’s/gif’s.
It is easy and natural to be angry and emotional during your divorce. However, that does not mean you should post quotes or pictures that may be misinterpreted or add fuel to the already burning fire.
- Don’t share pictures of your new significant other, alone, with you or with your children.
Understandably, you may have moved on and want to share photos of your new life, travels and family. However, think twice, particularly if you are the recipient of alimony. These photos and information can be used against you to prove cohabitation and possibly terminate alimony. Something as benign as a boyfriend/girlfriend at a child’s soccer game can cause major friction and have serious unintended consequences.
- Don’t share pictures of parties, consuming alcohol, or vacations.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for spouses to take pictures of each other having a drink at a party and provide it to the Court to somehow prove that one has a substance abuse problem. Likewise, those with substance abuse issues who are perhaps obligated to maintain sobriety during their parenting time, should not appear on Facebook with a glass of wine/beer in hand.
- Don’t share advice from your attorney or experts.
Disclosing what your attorney tells you is never a good idea. Sharing it with the world is a terrible idea and could jeopardize the attorney-client privilege.
It is important to discuss with your attorney, in advance, any social media sites on which you participate (or have in the past). Let your attorney know what pictures, posts, and information exists in order to help protect your interests going forward. It is likely that your spouse’s attorney will request your social media information and may subpoena same or even hire a technology expert to gather this information. It is important that you are honest with yourself and your attorney to address these issues in the first instance, rather than by “surprise.”
The best thing to do to avoid social media ruining any portion of a divorce case is to simply stop using it. If you’re going through a divorce, you can be certain your spouse and lawyer are combing through your online life. Protect yourself by staying away from all of your social media accounts until the divorce is finalized…and even thereafter.
Diana Fredericks, Esq., is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC and devotes her practice solely to family law matters. She is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney and was named to the NJ Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in the practice of family law by Thomson Reuters in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and to the New Leaders of the Bar list by the New Jersey Law Journal in 2015. Contact Ms. Fredericks for a consultation at 908-735-5161 or via email.
If you have a suggestion for a future blog topic, please feel free to submit it via the Contact Us form.