Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN and other social media and networking accounts often provide divorce lawyers with information that can be used to their client’s benefit. What many people do not realize is that their interaction on social media is quite different from a private face to face conversation with a trusted friend. People should not underestimate the consequences of social media interaction during the divorce process.
Discovering assets or income. Even though your soon-to-be ex-spouse may have removed you from social media access, you may have mutual friends who can see how your ex-spouse is now spending his or her time and money. If your estranged spouse is now taking extravagant vacations or if he or she just purchased a new car, this could provide important clues about the financial well-being of the spouse. This shared information through an online profile or account could mean that he or she has a hidden bank account or that he or she just received a raise in his or her salary at work.
Dating activities. Couples who are going through tough times must remember that their actions during a separation period can have a significant impact on the divorce or financial obligations after the divorce. If a spouse decides to have an extramarital affair, then this could lead to a fault-based divorce, which would allow the other spouse to proceed with a divorce without the consent of the other party and in a shorter time period compared to a no-fault, non-consensual divorce. Also, cheating can prevent a spouse from being entitled to spousal support payments. Cheating can also work against a spouse who in an equitable distribution or alimony proceeding. Cheating spouses who have online profiles on dating sites often get caught by a friend of the other spouse. The friend will take screen-shot of the on-line profile and then send it to the other spouse which can be used in court.
New job. LinkedIN and other social media accounts allow individuals to search for job opportunities. It also provides individuals with an online resume. When divorcing couples separate, the other spouse may have landed a new job, with higher pay. This could obviously impact the amount of child support or spousal support that the spouse will be obligated to pay. In addition, most custody orders are based in part on a parent’s availability. If a spouse/parent gets a new job that requires travel or working longer hours at home, it could be used in a custody proceeding to show that the spouse is unavailable during periods of time that can impact the overall custody order.
Disparaging comments. Individuals sometimes cannot resist the temptation to post negative comments about the other spouse. For example, if a spouse posts an activity that he or she did on Facebook, the other spouse may be jealous or overly emotional and react to the posted activity by posting a disparaging comment. Being aggressive and negative towards the other spouse can be extremely damaging during the divorce process. A judge will always pay particular attention to how the parents treat each other when fashioning a child custody order. Judges want to make sure that the interaction between the parents will not create hostilities between the parents in front of the child or children. Disparaging comments on social media can provide evidence that can be used against the parent who posted the comments.
In addition to social media postings, individuals should also be extremely cautious about what they email or text to the other spouse. These are written communications that can be admissible in court. Once these messages are sent, they can be preserved and then weeks or months later, they can be used as evidence to prove something or they can be used to impeach statements the spouse makes during a trial. There is nothing more damaging in a hearing before a judge than two conflicting statements made by an individual.
Divorce lawyers should always make it a top priority to explain to their clients the tremendous amount of problems that can occur with social media during a divorce process. Clients who choose not to listen to their attorneys do so at their own peril.