What happens on social networking sites stays in the public domain, which more and more divorcing couples are experiencing to their detriment. Evidence found on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter is increasingly used in family law courts. Judges take information gleaned from these sites as a factor in child custody decisions, alimony awards and property division.
Even dating sites, like Match.com have been used by Judges in deciding incomes for support purposes. If you think it is a good idea to inflate your income to look more attractive to prospective partners, you might want to reconsider doing that unless you are prepared to be held to that income for purposes of support. Remember, Judges have the power to decide credibility and if they don’t believe the income you present on paper and you are self-employed, they can and do hold you to a higher income, especially if you boast about how much you make on dating websites.
One ex-spouse’s claim that she could not work because of injuries sustained in a car accident was repudiated by her posts regarding her belly dancing activities, which prompted a New York Judge to deny her claim for spousal support. Parents seeking custody of their children can have their hopes crushed when posting photos online involving alcohol or drug use. Claims that one spouse cannot afford a certain level of alimony ring hollow when he or she “tweets” about buying a brand-new car or about vacations they are taking with others.
PRIVACY FEATURES MAY NOT MATTER
Many social networking sites have privacy features, but this does not always protect such information from being used in court. Judges are increasingly allowing access to online photos, posts and other information, even if protected or reserved for “friends,” by the opposing party in discovery (the legal process of obtaining evidence in a court case). In addition, many people unfamiliar with various privacy settings do not use those features, meaning anyone can access that information, including opposing attorneys.
TIPS FOR ONLINE POSTINGS DURING DIVORCE
Many experienced divorce lawyers urge their clients to practice caution when posting online, especially when in the middle of a contested divorce. While it can be tempting to vent online, negative posts about the ex-spouse or the divorce process, for example, can actually harm the poster. Generally, it is best simply to stay away from social networking sites altogether when going through divorce; if that seems too extreme, at least be aware that what is posted may very well end up in court. If inappropriate to say in front of a Judge, chances are posting it online isn’t a good idea either.
If you are facing divorce, contact a knowledgeable family law attorney who can advise you on property division, child custody and potential alimony.