At my law firm, we often say when discussing our cases, “Just do your best with the hand we have been dealt.” In some cases, the facts are great for the case and our client can expect an excellent result from the New Jersey Family Court. On the other hand, sometimes our client’s case is compromised right out of the gate. After nearly 20 years of being a divorce attorney, I have found that what folks post on social media sites to be the biggest “game changer” with respect to which direction our client’s case shall ultimately be resolved. Let’s explore.
Long gone are the days of letters and long distance phone calls. When I first became a New Jersey divorce lawyer, most cases were primarily, “he said, she said.” Now, when people post the “wrong” things on social media website, we have indisputable evidence.
Following let’s look at social media pitfalls in general as well as the advice that we give to our client regarding to “Do’s and Do Not’s” of social media.
In today’s world social media has become the most prevalent form of instant communication and self-expression. When living in a society where the world “selfie” has become an often-used noun, I find people throw inhibition to the wind when posting their most intimate secrets or thoughts online with thousands of their closest “friends”. While social media can often be an effective and easy to use tool in your day-to-day life, it may be disastrous when improperly used during a divorce.
What people often forget when posting thoughts or pictures online is that they are there for all to see and often can be used as evidence against you in a divorce proceeding. Even if you decide to take something down, it may be too late. It takes but a minute to take a “screen shot” of your post and in a few days you are staring at your regretted words in a Motion filed by your spouse’s attorney, which asks for an immediate change of custody or more support, because your luxurious Aruba vacation pictures are proof that you are not in fact as broke as you claim.
I have had many experiences where my clients or their spouses post something they regret in a moment of anger, vulnerability, or even excitement only to have it thrown in their face later. Not to mention taking pictures that may in fact be innocent, but are twisted into something they are not.
The most important time where you should be a bit more reserved in your social activity is when child custody and finances are involved. Be careful when you start airing your frustrations about your soon to be ex on Facebook or Twitter because it only takes one person to see it before it ends up in Court. Also, that shopping spree you just went on? Better to keep that to yourself, especially if you are claiming you cannot find a job or pay your child support.
My biggest recommendation when going through a divorce and especially a custody dispute is to stay off social media, and if you must post – be positive and vague. Be careful about posting your whereabouts and “checking in” at various restaurants or clubs. The last thing you want to hear is how much money you spend on going out or that you have no time to devote to your children because you are never home. If you think it might paint you in a negative light, keep it offline. I would also recommend setting your accounts so that other people cannot “tag” you in posts or photos without your approval. It doesn’t have to be you actually posting because again, it takes one person to put a picture up of you that can make trouble for you in your case.
In addition, keep your children offline. Do your best not to post comments or excessive photos of them online during the divorce process. While you may think it is innocent, people have difference opinions of posting information about children online and you don’t want it reflect poorly on you during the proceeding.
Finally, when posting online just ask yourself “would I want a New Jersey Family Court or my ex-to-be to know about this?” If the answer is no, then prevent the potential drama and save the social media for after your divorce is finalized.
If you are facing problems in your divorce matter because of social media issues and need help addressing them, do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein to discuss how we can help you.
As always, many thanks to Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder, Esq., for her generous contribution to this New Jersey divorce blog.