Cautions on the Use of Social Media for Divorcing Spouses and Parties in Child Custody Proceedings
As a family law practitioner I feel compelled to offer some advice concerning the use of social media to those of you who may be separating or beginning family law litigation. I have seen evidence from social media used in Court multiple times in the last year or so. Consider these warnings before you post that next picture or comment online:
- This probably goes without saying, but I have seen several cases in the last couple years in which problems leading to separation were exacerbated, if not caused, by one spouse using Facebook or some other online resource to connect with an old “flame” or new “friends” of the opposite sex. Enough said.
- Be careful when posting pictures of yourself “socializing” with friends. Pictures downloaded from Facebook are routinely being offered as evidence in child custody cases showing one party drinking alcohol or partying, evidencing poor choices or substance abuse problems. We all know that one picture showing a person drinking does not mean that person is an alcoholic; however, the picture can be taken out of context. Sometimes the caption of the photograph can be as damaging as the photograph itself, so be careful what you name them.
- Use restraint when posting comments about your own drug or alcohol use, your mental state, medications you are taking, comments about your ex or any remarks which could reflect negatively on you as a parent. Use your common sense.
- Never “vent” online about the Judge in your case, the other attorney involved, or any court appointed therapist, parent coordinator or your legal proceeding, particularly while your matter is still pending. Even if you do so in a very obscure chat room or web forum that you do not believe will ever be discovered by anyone – do not do it! I have seen such information discovered and used in Court, potentially to the detriment of the party who posted such material.
- Be cautious about using foul language or making derogatory remarks about others in online posts or emails. You do not want to do anything to call your character into question by the Court. When you have an opportunity to take the high road or be the bigger person, take it! It will benefit you in the legal proceeding but more importantly, it will benefit your children to see you model ethical behavior under difficult circumstances.
- Finally, I think we should all be cautious about posting pictures of our children or our own personal information online and making them available to potential predators or criminals. Use the privacy filters to make your pictures only accessible to people you know.
We all like the ability to communicate instantly with friends online, but we also need to do so intelligently. This is particularly true if you are in the midst of a separation process or a family court proceeding.