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Social Media and the Family Court
How do social media websites effect a divorce case?

Over the last five years or so, evidence from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs and other social media has been used in all types of family law cases. Social media evidence is now routinely used in divorce cases, alimony reduction/Lepis hearings, child support hearings, and child custody visitation disputes. Sometimes the evidence obtained from social media websites can be critically important. In other cases it is just nonsense and a waste of time. One of the most important parts of family law is what is the person's lifestyle. Social media can be used to establish a person's spending habits, any irresponsible behavior by a parent, or the failure of a party to make a good faith effort to find a job.

How you conduct yourself on social media websites can often hurt your family law case. Many New Jersey divorce lawyers are net-savvy, and they will search your Facebook status or other social media sites to try to obtain evidence in your case. Social media evidence is often used in visitation and child custody cases. Therefore, if you are in the middle of a nasty custody battle, or if your ex-spouse is suffering from the parental alienation syndrome (PAS), then you should refrain from using social media websites altogether. If you post any material that is questionable, then rest assured your ex-spouse will retrieve and try to use it against you. Why waste more money on legal fees to contest social media evidence?

Lawyers are now more than ever using the social media websites as evidence in all types of family law cases. When people are typing on their computer, and no one is watching them, they have a false sense of anonymity when none really exists. However, in reality you are posting your private life to the entire cyberworld.

The use of social media is a very hot topic in family law now. Did your husband's new girlfriend post a new Twitter about just receiving a new gold necklace from him? The court could consider this type of gift to constitute the dissipation of marital assets. Did your wife inform the court that she has absolutely no work skills and she can't find a job? However, her LinkedIn profile indicates that she has many job skills, and that she is now pursuing many different types of interviews and jobs.

Many people who are getting divorced recklessly put their life out there in cyberspace through Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and other forms of blogging. Some typical types of social media postings that impact family law cases are as follows:

  • Posting a picture of your new motorcycle or Beemer after you have just filed a motion to reduce your child support and alimony.
  • Are you tweeting about your crazy Saturday at the Jersey Shore when you were supposed to have parenting time for your kids?
  • Are you updating your status about your date night with your new girlfriend, even before you have separated from your wife?

It is important to emphasize that there is a very good chance that while you are posting this information on the net, your ex-spouse and her lawyer are printing out this information. Moreover, your ex-spouse will try to use this information at any trial.

The main lesson to learn from these types of disasters is that you should carefully consider the potential legal ramifications before you post any information on the net or on a social media site. Moreover, you should refrain from commenting about your spouse, her lawyer, or the judge on the internet. Finally, you should not post any pictures of any type of content that could be used against you in family court, and this includes partying, gifts to or from a new girlfriend, or places you should not be. If you are fighting for more time to spend with your kids, and if your ex-wife digs up Facebook postings of you at the strip joint or doing beer bongs at Cancun, then your case could be "nuked." This type of evidence could haunt you for years to come.

What are some scenarios when Facebook evidence can be used in a family law case?
  • In a child custody case, any pictures of a drunk parent or any information that demonstrate that the children are not being properly cared for.
  • In any type of hearing to reduce child support or alimony if there are photographs that prove that the payor/spouse has a "rapper type" lifestyle can be very helpful. For instance, any photographs of expensive vacations, new cars, or any other large purchases can be used to prove that the payor/spouse can still afford to pay the same levels of child support or alimony.
  • Any type of evidence that proves that the other party's lifestyle contradicts his claimed income.
  • Any posts, job titles or other indications that a party who is unemployed and not paying child support is not actively seeking a job.

How can Facebook postings be used as evidence in a divorce case?

What type of information or pictures you post online could ultimately be used as evidence against you in the family court. I have diligently searched the net and found many examples wherein social media postings have had an important impact on the divorce case. These examples are as follows:

  • A husband joined and declared he was single and childless, while he's seeking primary custody of his children.
  • A husband denied that he had any anger management issues but he still posted on Facebook: "If you have the balls to get in my face, I'll kick your ass into submission."
  • A wife was fighting for custody of her kids while subpoenaed evidence surfaced from the gaming site World of Warcraft tracks her online with her boyfriend at the precise time she claimed to be out with her children.
  • A mother denied in court that she smoked marijuana, but she posted partying, marijuana-smoking photographs of herself on Facebook.
  • A soon-to-be ex-husband claimed he was unemployed, and he was receiving temporary alimony payments from his wife. However, on Facebook the unemployed man described himself as a business owner and he also wrote details about trips to Las Vegas, South America and to Sea World all taken with his new girlfriend. At the divorce trial the judge denied the husband's request to receive any type of alimony.
  • A father claimed he could not afford to pay any type of child support. However, his online postings showed off photographs of him sitting in a Ferrari, taking a cruise, and selling land that he owned.

What precautionary steps should I take to ensure that my social media postings don't ruin my divorce case?

If you are getting a divorce then you should log off any social media websites. You are putting your social life out there for the world to inspect. If you are engaging in any type of questionable behavior then you shouldn't be putting it online, or someone like me might try to use it against you. You should be very aware of what you are posting online. Regardless of your reasons for using Facebook, you should be prepared to have whatever information you post online used against you in any situation. Moreover, it is advisable to use your privacy settings, and to use discretion if you use any social media sites. It is also advisable for you to search your own social media sites. Finally, you should also conduct your own search to see what kind of information about you is already published on the web. In my experience social media evidence is being used more and more in the family courts. In the majority of the cases, the courts will not place much weight on social media evidence. However, there are scenarios wherein the use of social media evidence can be disastrous to your case.

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