It's a rare occurrence these days when we do not have to address social media in a Massachusetts divorce or paternity child custody case.
Now, due to the prevalence of social media in our society the "social media talk" is often the very first issue we have to address.
Clients are sometimes surprised when we ask to see their Facebook page or their Twitter feed before we even ask to see any of their financial information.
However, it's critical to know what the judge may see in an exhibit packet at a temporary hearing on the issue of custody.
Here are ways social media can wreck havoc in your Massachusetts divorce or paternity child custody case:
Evidence of Parenting Fitness:
Discovery requests in divorce and paternity cases involve producing social media account information, but more specifically, parents are being asked to produce every social media post involving or referencing the children. This may show that one parent is the primary person attending all events with or for the child while the other is out partying, always working, or just never around.
It could also show that one parent has a tendency only post about themselves and never mentions a family or their children.
The impact of how a judge may read into each of these scenarios varies from court room to court room, but it is often difficult to have enough time during a temporary hearing to explain the context of even just a few screen shots from someone's online profile.
Evidence of Unreported Income:
Social media lends itself to bragging more than "real" life. In most family court cases, both parties must complete financial statement which are signed as "true and accurate" under oath.
If either party claims to have a low income or very little property and then social media posts brag about large cash payments or expensive personal property, cars, or jewelry it could be the evidence necessary for the court to impute a higher income or, at the very least, call into question that party's credibility throughout the rest of the case.
Evidence of Inappropriate Relationships:
The world of social media can be very casual and because contacts are labeled "friends", it's easy to forget that they are really your "audience" and some may be watching for any post which they can print or snap a screenshot to hold for leverage later.
Once litigation begins, the parties are typically barred from deleting or getting rid of any evidence related to the action pending in the family court. Therefore, the best advice is to make sure all passwords are changed, especially if your spouse knows your passwords to your social media accounts, and to make sure your privacy levels are set at the highest levels.
It's also a good idea to review your friends lists to make sure you are not allowing access to your profile to anyone who may be watching your posts for the other side.
Also, be wary of any friend request you may get from people you don't know or do not know very well.
While it's true that social media can cause a lot of problems for Massachusetts divorce and paternity child custody litigants, it doesn't have to ruin your case.
Follow the advice above and be diligent about sharing your social media posts with your attorney. It's always harder to defend against the unknown, so make sure your attorney knows about anything which could paint a negative light on your side of the case.
If you or someone you know is going through a difficult Massachusetts divorce or paternity action involving social media, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.