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During divorce or child custody proceedings, the seemingly mundane details of your life can be misconstrued and even prove detrimental to your case. Social media posts and comments can provide damaging information for opposing counsel in family court proceedings. Anything you post may be used as evidence against you, from status updates to pictures and everything in between.
California child custody laws focus on the best interests of the child. Such an investigation usually includes an examination at whether one parent is willing and able to help his or her child maintain a good relationship with the other parent. Therefore, public displays of animosity against another parent on a social media site can be harmful when it comes to determining child custody arrangements. Additionally, the social life of the parent can be a factor in the custody decision. Posting pictures of a night out with friends or other social activity may raise questions about a parent’s actions or contradict previous statements which may influence a judicial determination. Even though it may be completely innocent behavior, comments and images gleaned from these social media sites can paint a deceptive picture. This is especially true in the courtroom where the only thing the judge has to go on is the evidence presented to him or her–they do not know those in front of them personally.
Many individuals incorrectly believe that they can keep private information on social networking sites. That such information will be protected as long as they block their spouse and his or her close friends from seeing what they post. If you are contemplating or have already filed for divorce or child custody it may be smart to terminate ALL social networking sites, Twitter accounts and blogs to avoid even the possibility of revealing information that may later prove to be harmful. However, if you choose not to deactivate social media accounts (or at a minimum temporarily abstain from using them), here are some guidelines to follow:
- Remove your spouse or ex-spouse, his/her friends and family from your “friends” list on Facebook and other accounts. Even people who appear to be your “friends” may pass along posted information to opposing counsel. Also, be careful who you “friend,” as it may be a private investigator or someone who is aligned with your spouse or ex-spouse.
- Do not post any negative, derogatory or slanderous comments about your spouse, ex-spouse or his/her family and friends. These posts may be taken out of context when read to the judge or jury by opposing counsel,
- Do not post any negative comments about your children.
- Do not change your status to “single” or “looking for a relationship” if the divorce is not final.
- Do not post photos or comments about yourself, family members or friends doing anything illegal, that might appear to be illegal, or is otherwise compromising.
- Do not post photos or comments about yourself, family members or friends drinking alcoholic beverages or appearing to be intoxicated. To a judge, this is not recreational fun, but irresponsible behavior.
- Do not post comments that include foul language.
- Do not post photos or comments about your significant other or anyone you may be dating.
- Do not post comments about your divorce or custody proceeding.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly – NEVER post any comments about what you discussed with your lawyer!
Sources and Related articles
- How Not To Use Facebook To Get Custody Of Your Kid (Forbes.com)
- Divorcing Women: Don’t Make These Five Costly Mistakes (Forbes.com)
- Social Media Represents Minefield In Divorce Landscape (HuffingtonPost.com)
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