Divorce in a Time of Facebook

By now, we would hope that most people understand the ramifications of posting inappropriate comments on their social media profiles. When you are involved in a court proceeding as sensitive as a child custody hearing, you need to embrace the gravity of the situation, and remember that whatever you post online can potentially be used against you.

If you are fighting for custody, working amicably with your spouse through the stages of divorce, or trying to modify an existing court order for child support, there are a lot of emotions that come up for both sides. We understand that when you are involved in what feels like a losing battle, you may feel tempted to let off steam, and let the world know how you feel by posting something vindictive or disparaging on social media. Please be assured that this almost always backfires and has the opposite effect you might have been looking for.

Whatever you post on social media is fair game for the other side

Let’s use a hypothetical example of a father who has petitioned the court to modify his child support order, because he has become unemployed due to a debilitating disease. Yet at the same time, this father, who was supposed to be terribly ill and therefore unable to work, was maintaining a LinkedIn account and a Facebook profile where he was trying to attract clients for his home-based business. He shared pictures supposedly taken on his travels on Instagram and tweeting about his exciting lifestyle, even though that lifestyle may have been “embellished” a bit (or a lot). His petition to modify his child support was not approved because the court ruled that he could generate income through his home-based business while he was receiving treatments for his illness.

Furthermore, you cannot tell the court that you are unable to afford to pay child support while at the same time portraying yourself through pictures and videos online as someone who lives a lavish, extravagant life. Flaunting your material success and affluent lifestyle (alleged or actual) while claiming financial hardship will almost always backfire.

Social media is not the only dangerous technology

Posting pictures of your travels on Facebook is bad enough, but it is not the only situation that could get you in trouble. Again, let’s use a hypothetical: one evening while with your friends, you have a little bit too much to drink, and you are feeling fed up about the court battle. The next thing you know you start sending angry text messages to your former spouse. This is never a good idea. Those texts could end up as part of the court record, which can be used against you during the proceedings. They can also land you in hot water, so to speak, if they contain any language that might be construed as threatening to your spouse or your child.

To recap: No disparaging tweets, no drunken texts, no posting pictures of your lavish lifestyle if you are crying poor to the judge. In fact, the best advice is to take a complete hiatus from posting on social media until the case is resolved. You never know how a seemingly innocent photo or status update can be taken out of context and used against you. If your former spouse or partner tries to lure you in to a fight online, ask yourself if what you are getting ready to type is something that you would want the judge to see and take under consideration.

The family law attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, have more than 30 years of combined experience helping Maryland clients resolve their child custody and child support challenges. To reserve a consultation at our Annapolis office, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.