Here are two examples of why, at our first meeting, I always caution men and fathers getting a divorce in New Jersey to stay off of social media as much as they can during the process.
About one year ago, a wife was demanding higher spousal support payments because she insisted that she lacked the skills needed to find a good job. During a negotiating session with her lawyer, we produced a copy of her LinkedIn profile which showed she had a first-class university degree and an extensive work history up until the couple had children. She backed off on her demand.
More recently, a mother was fighting my client’s desire to share custody of their children. The case went to court and we provided the judge with some of her Facebook and Instagram posts showing her in photos partying with friends during weekends she was supposed to be taking care of the kids. The judge named our client a co-parent.
The lesson is simple: Unlike in Vegas, what happens on social media doesn’t stay on social media. Anything and everything you post can be used as evidence in a divorce, and even in post-divorce motions.
Walk Softly, Carry a Small Stick
I participated in a survey of divorce lawyers across the United States where the findings revealed some 80-percent of us have noticed an increase in the amount of evidence being gleaned from social networking sites. Most of the items came from Facebook but with Twitter and Instagram running close behind.
Here’s an example: Frequently, dividing the assets and debts of a couple is a big issue. The law requires both parties to fully disclose their financial position. But if the man or his ex-wife boast about a huge bonus they hadn’t disclosed, it can be used against them in a post-divorce proceeding.
On a more practical level, do not use social media to complain about your spouse or disparage her in any way – no matter how awful the marriage was when you were together.
- Avoid being critical of your ex. For one thing, your kids might see it. For another, if your divorce ends up in court, judges have little patience for that kind of behavior.
- Don’t make negative comments about your ex as a parent or how she deals with the children.
- Don’t put anything about the divorce in messages to your children. They are going through their own emotional struggles with mom and dad splitting up and you don’t want to put them in the middle or ask them to take sides.
- Don’t post anything – written or photos – that may indicate you have started a new life even before the old marriage has been ended formally. Photos of you on an island beach with a new girlfriend can be twisted in a way that ends up portraying you as an unfit father. It may also raise questions about whether you have disclosed your income and assets honestly and as your property division lawyer I don’t want any curveballs thrown at me by your wife’s attorney.
What may feel like letting off steam or expressing your frustration on social media can come back to haunt you.
If in Doubt, Be Quiet
Over the years that I have been a divorce lawyer in New Jersey, I have helped men and fathers deal with simple and complex child custody issues as well as property division issues and spousal support disputes. Posting anything intemperate on social media can complicate an already-complex negotiation.
Discretion is more than just the better part of valor. It can be a winning strategy.
If you are considering divorcing your spouse and want to know how to stay out of “trouble” on social media, call me or any of our family law attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.