Adults should always be careful about what they post on social media because the record is there for all to see, including prospective employers. Now, family law judges pay closer attention to social media posts when making decisions about pending divorce, child custody, visitation, and child support/spousal support hearings.
As people become more impulsive and less thoughtful about posts – or don’t think to check peers’, family, or friends’ posts – social posts admitted as evidence in court are increasingly used as evidence against petitioners/responders in your divorce or child custody hearings.
Do NOT Do This On Social Media During Divorce Proceedings
Everyone should be mindful of their public image and how it can affect them, but this is especially true before, during, and after divorce proceedings. Depending on the evidence copied and pasted to be used against you, you may find yourself:
- In contempt of court or facing perjury charges.
- Losing child custody or visitation rights.
- Paying more in child or spousal support.
- Owing backpay for child/spousal support (paid with 10% interest to the recipient).
- Facing criminal charges.
Here are five things you should never do when using social media.
Disparage your spouse/child’s parent or post info about proceedings
Judges frown on immature, disparaging, or slanderous behavior from petitioners or respondents. No matter how mad or hurt you are by your spouse, never disparage them on social media. It automatically casts you in a poor light, which can continue to haunt you throughout the divorce proceedings. If your children have social media access, disparaging their other parent(s) may come back around to them, and that can be disastrous.
Secondly, keep the details of the case private. While much of the information about the court proceedings becomes part of the public record, posting things publicly is considered uncivil and also casts a shadow on your integrity. If you’re dating someone new, and there are inappropriate posts about the two of you (partying, drinking, using drugs, etc.) this can also get you into trouble – including restrictions around your new partner being around when you have the kids.
Post or be part of a post that depicts you drunk, partying, participating in illicit activities, etc.
Yes, everyone deserves a night out; there is nothing illegal about going out and having a good time (unless you’re caught on film/post doing something illegal). However, these images and posts can be detrimental in a battle around child custody or visitation rights.
While the court does its best to support 50/50 custody – or close to it – whenever it can, first and foremost, family law courts support children’s best interests. If your ex’s lawyer supports evidence from your own social media posts or those from your network, they could cost you time with your children, which also adds up to more child support you’ll have to pay.
Lie about the reason you’re postponing/canceling a visit with your child
If you tell your child’s other parent you can’t honor the visitation agreement due to a work event or family emergency, make sure it’s the truth. Because if they see a post anywhere online that you were actually doing something else, that can be used against you. Remember that while you can control what you post, you have no control over what your friends and outer-layer acquaintances post.
Things come up, life happens, and the ideal is that parents can work together on (in writing) trades/makeups, etc. However, honesty is always the best policy, or you could find yourself with less time available with your children. And, as we mentioned in #1, children with access to social media also find out you’re lying, which sets a horrible precedent and can destroy their trust in you.
Post pictures of work or side jobs if you’ve claimed unemployment
It’s not uncommon for people who work under the table or pick up side jobs to be dishonest about their income to avoid maximum child support payments. This is a huge mistake. First, it’s dishonest and illegal. Always be honest about your employment situation and income, as digital records can come back to haunt you, and penalty payments are staggering.
Second, anyone can hire a private investigator to follow you and find out otherwise. But these days, P.I.s are needed less and less due to irresponsible social media posting. A single post that shows/mentions you at work, boasting about things you’ve bought for yourself or your new partner (when you claim to have no money), or otherwise indicates you have an income you didn’t report (or lied about) is evidence and can be used to collect back-owed support with hefty interest.
Post anything with your children that makes you look irresponsible
Were you and your kids swimming in a river clearly stating “no swimming due to strong current?” Did you take your child on vacation out of the state – or country – without prior written permission from their other parent? Is there a post showing you and your children at a celebration with people who are clearly drunk, high, or with paraphernalia in the background?
Anything that remotely hints that your children are not safe or are at all at risk while in your custody is solid grounds for stripping you from custody or visitation without supervision.
Tips For Social Media Posts During & After Divorce
If you’re in the process of getting divorced or fighting for child custody, there are things you can do to keep social media from working against you:
Clean up the account
Delete any posts that could be remotely incriminating, or that cast you in a negative light. Ask friends and family to do the same.
Take a break or keep things very professional
If you wouldn’t want prospective employers, your grandmother, or a police officer to see the post, don’t post it.
Google yourself with parentheses, using any potential names, nicknames, or initials, and see what shows up. You may be surprised to see photos you never knew were public. If anything could count against you, try to get it removed.
Keep all digital communication in line
We’re discussing social media in this post, but all digital communication can be used against you. That includes texts, emails, voicemails, websites, internet history, etc.
The Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone Keeps Social Media Out Of It
Pursuing mediation, rather than litigation, is the best way to avoid social media being used against you during divorce or child custody proceedings. Mediation can save you thousands of dollars, months of wasted time, and unnecessary negative energy, and keep things on the higher road.
Contact The Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone to learn more about moving through your divorce or child custody proceedings with as little tension, angst, or negativity as possible.