Think before you post....How your social media can affect you
We’ve all been there. That moment when you are so enraged and annoyed at what someone else did or said that you can’t seem to stop yourself from running to your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat world and vent about how you’ve been wronged. When we feel me must hold them accountable for their actions and let the social media world know all about the horrible thing this person did or said...
Unfortunately, the momentary joy that comes from calling the other person out and airing their dirty laundry fades fast, whereas the potential negative impact it can have in your divorce or custody case will often last far longer.
If there is one important piece of advice that people need with regard to social media it is that they need to think before you post.
This message is so important that it bears repeating…Think before you post. Remember that every single thing you post in social media world is potentially permanent. You may think that it isn’t a big deal. I can delete the post. I can untag myself. However, once something is put in social media world, it is difficult to take it back. For example, while you may delete the post, that didn’t stop the other party from taking a screen shot of the post. Nearly everyone, our children included, have a cell phone capable of taking a screen shot making that even momentary post permanent.
Take this case as a cautionary tale:
I was retained by a Father who had not seen his children for approximately two years. He and his ex-wife had been married for twelve years and had three children, ages 15, 9, and 6. They had been divorced for approximately five years, and for the first three years following the divorce everything had run relatively smoothly. Unfortunately, the Father suffered a work injury that left him permanently disabled and unable to continue his employment. As a result, his child support obligation was not being met because he was not working. Rather than contacting an attorney for assistance, he continued to allow the child support arrears to accrue. Because of that back child support owed, the Mother stopped allowing him parenting time with the children. She would not allow him to visit or even speak with the children. The Father was under the mistaken belief that he did not have a right to go to court for enforcement of parenting time because he was behind on his Child Support Obligation.
After two years of not seeing the children, the Father finally retained my services so he could begin to see his children. We filed a motion asking that the Court enforce his right to see his kids. The Mother suggested to the Court that the children no longer wished to have a relationship with him since he had not been around. The Mother insisted that she consistently attempted to convince the children that they should have a relationship with their Father and that it was simply not what they wanted. She even provided letters from the children’s teachers and school counselors advising that the children did not want to see the Father. The Mother was confident that Father would not get any parenting time.
What the Mother did not realize is that once the Father retained my services as his attorney, I arranged for a thorough search of her social media platforms as a source of investigation. After this review of her accounts, it became clear that at least part of the reason the children were resistant to seeing their dad was based upon the parental alienation Mother employed, intentionally or not, through her social media posts.
Specifically, I presented the Court with no less than 250 printouts from the Mother’s Facebook page, whether they were “memes” or “posts”, that referenced how the Father was a deadbeat, did not want to see his children, did not love his children, and only she loved them. Mother suggested that since she often did not specifically name the Father, there was no proof that she was referring to him and she is free to say what she likes or post what she likes. She also suggested that since it was “true,” she cannot be in trouble. While she did not always use his name, the inference was enough, and the Judge was outraged at the Mother for making these posts. This case was especially offensive to the Court since their older two children had their own Facebook accounts, were “friends” with Mother and had access to see all these disparaging comments. In fact, I presented the Court with proof that the oldest child actually asked Mother to stop making those comments about his father in the beginning. However, after two years of a constant onslaught of these types of posts, approximately one every three days, the children were thoroughly poisoned against Father. The Judge mentioned to the Mother that she should have stopped and considered that even if her children did not currently have Facebook, they may one day and either they or their friends may see these posts.
The Judge was appropriately angry with the Mother and found that she had been alienating the children from the Father. He ordered immediate reunification therapy and required Mother to pay all of the costs of therapy and all of Father’s attorney’s fees. Reunification Therapy is a type of therapy that is used to reunite an alienated parent with their children. In this case, reunification therapy was used to re-establish the relationship between the Father and the children so that they could move forward without having their bond severed again. The Judge warned the Mother that if she continued to alienate the children, continued to disparage the Father, or refused to cooperate with reunification therapy, the Judge would consider giving the Father residential custody. Most importantly to the Father, the Judge compelled the Mother to cooperate with giving the Father compensatory parenting time with his kids, which means that the Father was granted additional parenting time to make up for the parenting time Mother had effectively taken from him.
The moral of this cautionary tale is two-fold. First, think before you post. If you would not want someone to show the post or picture or statement to a Judge, do not post it. Second, arm yourself with counsel that understands technology and social media and is in a position to locate whether there is social media content that would be helpful or harmful to your case.