Technology and Family Court...The Saga Continues

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Although social media has become a part of everyday life, I advise clients to not let it become a part of their family court proceeding.

In a previous post, Olivia Giacobbi, a Fresh Legal intern, similarly wrote about this topic and shared tips for using social media when going through a separation.  

I always remind clients that emails and text messages are permissible as evidence in court.  A general rule of thumb – before you send a text message to your ex or post something on social media, ask yourself, “Would I want the Judge to read this?” If the answer is “No”, don’t do it!

If you are currently in a family court proceeding or are about to be, there are generally two types of mistakes you want to avoid making:

1.     Engaging in derogatory or negative comments about your ex

Social media postings are admissible as evidence, provided that the material is considered relevant.   As a lawyer, I advise my clients to refrain from posting anything negative about their ex and to be cautious in how their communication via text and email may be received. 

If a client has to communicate with their ex to arrange childcare, for example, it can be difficult to avoid responding to rude or insulting messages from their former partner.  However, it’s always best to ignore the insults and keep the communication focused on the children. Compare how the Husband handles the situation in the text exchange with the Wife below:

Example:

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BAD:

Husband: Are you picking up the kids today or am I doing it?

Wife: Sorry that it’s such a “chore” for you to pick-up your own kids! Maybe if you weren’t so busy with your new girlfriend it wouldn’t be such an ordeal!

Husband: I didn’t say it was a “chore” and why are you always bringing her into it. We both think you are a jealous idiot anyway. See you in court $@%#&!

Wife: Forget it, I’m picking up the kids and you can forget about having them next week!

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BETTER:

Husband: Are you picking up the kids today or am I doing it?

Wife: Sorry that it’s such a “chore” for you to pick-up your own kids! Maybe if you weren’t so busy with your new girlfriend it wouldn’t be such an ordeal!

Husband: Ok, I’ll pick them up at 3pm when they get out of school.

Wife: OK, FATHER OF THE YEAR!

 2.     Posting anything that could lead to you being perceived in an undesirable light

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Social media postings can be very useful when the court is presented with contradictory evidence and credibility issues.  A party’s social media postings can speak volumes about their income and lifestyle.  A common example of this is when a party has sworn a Financial Statement indicating that they do not have the income or means to pay support, and then they take their new partner to Jamaica and post their vacation pictures all over social media. 

Or, a party claims they are broke, yet their Facebook postings show them proposing to their new partner with a $10,000 engagement ring, the receipt for which proudly displayed in the photo (this actually happened).

Another common example in this category is when a party claims their ex has a drinking problem which the opposing party strongly denies. If the opposing party then posts on Facebook, “Getting wasted tonight!” or displays photos of themselves, whether posted by them or by others, of themselves surrounded by alcohol or at a bar, this tends to severely weaken that party’s credibility in the eyes of the court.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of your ex’s derogatory social media posts or messages, document it!  Take screenshots, save the emails and provide them to your lawyer.  And when you are tempted to respond, whether it be on social media, via text or email – don’t go down to their level.  Keep messages focused on the issue at hand and ignore the negativity.