Divorce in the Digital Age
Many people are quick to share intimate details of their life with their hundreds of friends or followers on social media. However, if you are involved in a divorce or custody proceeding, you should be very careful about what you post online and should consider whether to post at all.
Anything you post could be admitted into evidence and be reviewed by your judge. Emotions generally run high throughout legal proceedings. It is never fun when your emotional rant about the opposing party is presented as evidence in court. This is especially true when a judge may have to decide whether you are capable of fostering love and affection between your children and the other parent. Even before trial, your social media posts can be used by an opposing party to influence settlement negotiations in that parent’s favor.
Do not assume that your social media accounts are safe or inaccessible just because they are private or you believe they are blocked from an opposing party’s view. There are various ways for courts, attorneys, and other parties to obtain your online information.
It is important to note, however, that it is not a good idea to delete old social media posts, even if you shouldn’t have posted in the first place. In fact, it is very important to preserve such information once it becomes clear that you’re going to be involved in a legal matter. If you are concerned about old posts, try to deactivate your accounts without permanently deleting anything.
Child Custody Determinations
Social media posts can be persuasive evidence in child custody matters. Although going out for a night with your friends does not automatically bring your parenting into question, a visual play-by-play of your nightlife is not the type of thing you want to have laid bare in a courtroom.
When determining where children should reside, courts must consider the children’s best interests. As part of this analysis, courts may review evidence and testimony related to the mental health of all individuals involved and are required to make findings related to the ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the children and the other party. The court will also try to determine the ability of each party to place the needs of the children ahead of his or her own needs. Rarely is a party’s social media account helpful in establishing favorable facts for that parent. It is usually very much the opposite.
It is also important to exercise caution when posting information about your children on social media while in the midst of litigation. The other parent may not approve of you sharing photos or details about the children online or may disagree with activities that you partake in with the children. Even if your posts and activities are perfectly harmless, social media can increase conflict regarding major decisions for the children.
Text Message and Email
Apart from social media usage, parties involved in a domestic relations matter should also exercise caution when texting or emailing the opposing party. Nasty messages you sent to an opposing party when your emotions were high will likely be used against you. However, when these methods of communication are used properly, they can be used to demonstrate to the court your willingness to cooperate with the other party or that you have behaved maturely toward the other parent. Courts prefer to see parties work together as much as possible and will not be pleased with any party who is unnecessarily contributing to increased conflict, especially when there are children involved.
Although your first instinct may be to reach out to your online community when your stress levels are high, especially during a divorce or custody battle, consider how you may feel when these communications are viewed by the opposing party, his or her lawyer, your lawyer, your children, and/or the judge in your case. It is usually better to bite your tongue, take a step back, and remember that feelings are fleeting, but your social media posts are not. There are programs available online to help parties draft communications to one another and provide suggested alternative language in situations when emotions are extremely high. The attorneys at Woody Law Firm are available to help you manage these situations and place the focus in your legal matter where it belongs, on your children.
Woody Law Firm, LLC specializes exclusively in family law and family law mediation. We can specifically assist you with complex divorce litigation, child custody disputes, child support modification and enforcement, non-traditional family formation and dissolution, adoption, and dependency and neglect matters.
Call us today at 303-968-1711 to schedule a free consultation!