How Social Media Can Affect Your Divorce Case
@DanDantheMuzikMan: @EvertonFerrari, the next time a customer wants to drop $300k on a 488 Spider, maybe don’t leave him sitting in the manager’s office for 40 minutes? No coffee, nada. #customerexperience
@CandyCrushingIt: Heading out on OKCupid date. Hoping next partner is a #realman – not a weak, 45-yr-old mammas boy. #Divorce
@DiDiDelight: Drunk at 11am? It’s okay – it’s 7pm in England, and Ancestry DNA says I’m 47% British. #Win #WineWednesday
What do the above posts have in common? (Apart from being entirely fictional.) Yes – they’re silly, but in the event of a divorce, they could lead to unfavorable outcomes if they were used in litigation.
A huge portion of the U.S. population (an estimated 70 percent) uses social media resources on a regular basis for both personal and professional purposes, and many of us post messages and updates on our pages without really considering the larger implications. During a divorce, attorneys may use social media posts as evidence in their cases, and approximately 80 percent of attorneys belonging to the AAML (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers) say that they would or do use evidence from Facebook and other social media channels in proceedings. Here are ways too much information can influence a settlement.
Financial Disclosure Complications
In California, divorce Petitioners and Respondents must submit full financial disclosure forms, so that asset division may be determined. It is crucially important that these disclosures are true and accurate.
It is extremely easy to use social media posts to curate a particular persona, and when you share photos and posts describing a lavish lifestyle that may not necessarily correspond with what was submitted, it could be determined that you are hiding assets, and you may be found guilty of perjury. That evidence could also be used to show that you have lavish expenses, which may be interpreted as having higher income than you’re disclosing. Moreover, social media career resources like LinkedIn may be scrutinized for professional activity and to check for any discrepancies in claims of business performance and employment.
Giving Credibility to Claims of Infidelity
Joining any dating site, or using any other social media platform to indicate that you’re seeking new romantic relationships/partnerships (or sought them during your marriage), may complicate a divorce case. Even the most innocuous postings can be detrimental – particularly if the questionable themes are recurring.
Even though California is a no-fault state, and someone cannot be held financially responsible for infidelity, if your partner can show that community funds were used during the course of the infidelity, then it might become relevant in your case, and your partner could seek reimbursement of those community funds.
Indicating Parental Unfitness or Neglect
Been partying all night and miss work? Leaving your children in the care of others when you are supposed to be looking after them yourself? It doesn’t matter if you are exaggerating for humorous effect or posting about your friends’ lifestyles and not your own. Social media posts that include details of potentially reckless behaviors – even if you are not engaging in them directly – could jeopardize your custody case.
Use Social Media Responsibly
I also advise my clients going through any type of divorce or paternity litigation to shut down all social media pages. However, if you can’t go off the social media grid, keep the following in mind when posting on your social media pages:
· Keep all settings private
· Unfollow your ex and your exes’ family, friends, and associates (anyone who could access your posts on behalf of your ex)
· Do not post anything personal – particularly about your divorce, children, or money
· Do not make emotional disclosures, even about things that are unrelated to your divorce
Do not give your ex-spouse and his or her attorney any information that may be used against your own interests. Getting those “likes” might have felt good at the time, but you won’t like when those posts are read back to you in court.
Bookmark this page to make this difficult period in your life as painless as possible. In the weeks ahead, we will be covering topics including the role of infidelity in a California divorce, ways of keeping property separate without a prenuptial agreement, dividing retirement plans, and more.