Most adults use some form of social media on a regular basis. It is always a good idea to be mindful of what one posts. Prior to social media platforms, it was easier to have privacy in a divorce. Nowadays, people are more inclined to document their lives online, and social media activity can impact divorce proceedings.
Anyone considering divorce or going through divorce should know about the impact of social media activity on child custody and other divorce-related matters. Listed below are some common ways social media creates conflict in a divorce case.
Infidelity and Other Types of Marital Misconduct
Changing one’s relationship status or posting photographs with a new significant other before the divorce is finalized may imply infidelity. In some states, infidelity is a factor when determining alimony, child support, and custody. In a legal context, marital misconduct can be abandonment, substance abuse, and physical or emotional abuse. Posts, messages, or photographs documenting any of these behaviors may lead to consequences.
New Jersey is one state that allows fault divorce on the grounds of adultery and other forms of misconduct. For example, an innocent spouse who can show evidence of their ex spouse’s infidelity might receive a greater amount of alimony. If marital misconduct interferes with safe and responsible parenting, the parent who engages in questionable behaviors can lose custody or visitation of the children.
Financial Impact of Social Media Activity
Social media also impacts the financial transactions that come with divorce. Property division is a key element of every divorce. Homes, vehicles, personal items, and financial accounts are carefully tallied and scrutinized to determine who gets what when the marriage ends. Both parties must be completely transparent for the process to be fair and reasonable. Posting on social media about property and other assets that were not disclosed during the divorce will likely have consequences. At a minimum, hiding assets will affect the outcome of a divorce.
During mediation or in court, alimony and child support are calculated based on a different factors, including both spouses employment status, lifestyles, expenses, and debts. If a spouse claims that they cannot pay spousal support because they are broke but posts extravagant vacations online, their actions will likely be further investigated.
Child Custody and Visitation
In New Jersey, divorce matters are determined based on the best interests of the children. A parent who posts photographs or videos of excessive drinking, drug use, and other dangerous behaviors will jeopardize custody and visitation. The courts wants assurance that any parent with legal or physical custody of the children is fit. Parental fitness is the intention and ability to provide financial, emotional, and physical support to the children. Social media activity suggesting otherwise can be used to prove the other parent should not have custody or should only visit the children with supervision.
Is Digital Content Considered Evidence?
Social media content is evidence in many court cases. In family law, digital activity reflects a person’s lifestyle, spending habits, and romantic liaisons. Since online activity has become a primary source of communication, how people use it and what they post are often admissible in court.
Even if a person’s social media accounts are private, there are no guarantees people who can view the posts will not screenshot or share them. Anyone using social media should presume their ex-spouse, their ex partner’s friends and family, and their ex-spouse’s lawyer can access their posts.
Additionally, it is not always the person going through a divorce who posts something damaging. It is easy for another person to include others in social media content. While the poster may not have bad intentions, inadvertently tagging a person during their divorce can be detrimental to their family law case.
Tips for Using Social Media During Divorce
Anyone who continues using social media during the divorce process should remember these tips to prevent their online activity from negatively impacting their case.
Do not criticize the ex-spouse online. It is never a good idea to discuss any legal case online or quarrel with an ex-spouse. Someone who tends to post often about their personal life should stick to the 24-hour rule. When feeling agitated, wait at least 24 hours and reconsider whether posting is a good idea.
Monitor children’s social media activities. Children can inadvertently post content that leads to divorce disputes, especially if it shows a parent’s activities in relation to assets, travel, or new relationships. During divorce, it is a good idea to talk to children about smart social media activity. Even when a couple splits, children are likely to stay in contact with grandparents, aunt, uncles, and family friends. Children’s social media posts are an easy way for a parent to find out what their ex-spouse is doing.
Ask to be excluded from digital activity. As mentioned above, someone who does their best to stay off social media can accidentally end up in another person’s social media post. Social media posts may reveal more than someone getting divorced wants to share. To prevent unwanted exposure, ask friends, family, and co-workers to refrain from tagging or including one in any digital posts.
Consider the impact of a social media post in court. Imagine a family court judge presiding over the divorce proceedings reading or viewing a post. Could it reflect poorly on the poster? If so, it is best not to post about it online.
Should I Delete My Social Media Accounts During the Divorce?
When it comes to divorce, it is best to limit activity on social media platforms. If the idea of deleting social media accounts is unappealing, take the following steps instead:
- Never discuss the divorce or the ex-spouse online.
- Adjust all settings to make accounts as private as possible.
- Remove anyone connected to an ex-spouse, including mutual acquaintances and their co-workers and family members.
- When in doubt, think about what a divorce lawyer or judge would think of a post and how it could impact custody, spousal support, and asset distribution. It is always better to err on the side of caution.
There is no doubt that social media has revolutionized the way people communicate. When it comes to divorce proceedings, some information is better left offline. Before filing for divorce, consider how online activity can alter an outcome and have a lasting effect on a family’s future.
Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Make Informed Decisions During Their Divorce
Social media management is important during a divorce. Our experienced Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can help you with all aspects of your divorce case. Our job is to protect your interests and ensure you get a fair settlement. We are here to guide you through every step of the way so you can avoid costly mistakes. Call us at 908-575-9777 or complete our online form for an initial consultation. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.