Here’s a rule that is simple and easy to follow if you are a man or father getting a divorce in New Jersey: Don’t put anything on social media, dash out in a text or say in an email that you do not want to see used against you during settlement negotiations or introduced as evidence if your case ends up in court.
Here’s why I always give a new client this advice, and remind clients of it while we are trying to work out a settlement and support payments with her lawyers.
No matter how upset you are with your soon-to-be ex-wife and regardless of how temping it might be to post something nasty about her on Facebook or to text friends that you will “nail her,” judges do not look kindly on derogatory social media comments, nasty texts and hate-spewing emails.
They won’t be kept secret, even if you have second thoughts and delete them. Your wife’s attorney can request you hand over copies and, if you don’t have them anymore, can subpoena telecom companies as well as social media platforms to provide backup records and documentation. In fact, there is a large and group of cases where trial judges and appeals courts rule that they all are admissible as evidence in a divorce.
Discretion may the better part of valor but it also is the best thing to exercise during your divorce.
Communicating Directly with Your Ex on Social Media
I am all in favor of the men and fathers we represent keeping an open line of communication with their spouse. Doing so helps keep smooth what can be knotty negotiations over support and custody issues. Plus, it helps your children through what is a very tough time for them anyway. So it is crucial to keep emails and text messages civil. No judge is going to be upset seeing messages that merely ask “I will pick up the kids at six o’clock” or “Please send me a copy of the credit card bill.”
Yet many people forget that anything in writing can be used as evidence against them. Even a text message can be uploaded from a smartphone to a computer and printed out.
Sometimes, the messages go back years, revealing verbal abuse, an admission of some form of wrongdoing such as having an affair or one-night stand, or other statements that the writer might not have sent had they foreseen them ending up as documents entered into evidence in their divorce.
Protected Information Not Allowed
If you want to use this kind of evidence against your wife in your settlement negotiation or at a trial, don’t violate Federal or New Jersey laws by sneaking a look at her device to find things on it. If you didn’t share a tablet or laptop, for example, you cannot rummage through hers even if you know the password. So is hacking into her work computer to see if she has been emailing a lover or telling her co-workers or friends things about your marriage.
Not only is doing any of this illegal, it will not be allowed to be admitted as evidence.
Also, some communication between a husband and wife are considered to be protected and private such as sharing health information or information about the health of the kids.
However, if you are certain that there is important information that will help your case somewhere on your spouse’s devices or work computer, we can issue a subpoena to her requiring that the information be handed over. If she or her lawyer refuse to comply, we can ask a court to issue an order.
Ask Questions First
If you are a man or father going considering a divorce, we can answer your questions up-front about what to do about electronic communications with your wife now and as the process unfolds. Please feel free to call Micklin Law Group or any of the experienced family law and divorce attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.For more information you can read our divorce guide.