It's been reported that approximately 50 percent of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce. But are you aware that Facebook and other social networking sites could sabotage your divorce settlement negotiations if you're not careful?
According to a recent study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), over 80 percent of divorce attorneys acknowledge that the amount of cases utilizing social networking evidence have increased significantly since 2006.
In our family law practice, divorce evidence derived from social media and Facebook is becoming commonplace. What people don't realize is that seemingly harmless party photos and location-based status updates can jeopardize a person's divorce settlement, resulting in the loss of child custody, parenting time or even alimony.
The divorce process is often a highly emotional time and social media outlets readily provide evidence that can harm one or both parties, both during and after a divorce settlement.
In one of our recent cases, a female client whose divorce was settled two years ago recently submitted photos to the firm which had been posted on YouTube by her ex-husband, who had full custody of their two-year-old son. The pictures showed him and several friends drinking various alcoholic beverages during a party in his home while the minor child was present. Even though the images couldn't prove that the ex-husband was necessarily drunk, or that the child was ever in any real danger, the photos were enough to enable our client to win a transfer of custody from her ex-husband.
This doesn't mean you should delete your YouTube or Facebook accounts or give up social media altogether, but rather to be mindful of what you're posting and saying online. We advise our clients to follow these three steps in order to avoid sabotaging their pending, or existing divorce settlement.
1. Think before you post.
It should be obvious, but think carefully about the photos you are uploading when you hit "post" on Facebook. As outlined above, social media outlets have quickly become one of the biggest sources of evidence used in divorce cases. Don't let social networking posts add fuel to an already emotionally charged situation.
2. Keep your social networking circles separate from your ex's
Even if you're on friendly terms with your ex, or soon-to-be-ex, it's a good idea to keep your social networking circles as separate as possible. You never know when the emotional tides may turn and readily incriminating evidence found online can be used against you. For example, if you're not yet divorced, avoid changing your status to "single" and signing up for dating sites. While it may seem like an obvious faux pax, it happens and can be used to prove that a person was cheating, or looking to cheat, prior to divorce proceedings.
3. Don't reveal your location
Many social sites can and will reveal your location when you upload images and status updates. If you're not where you're "supposed to be," it's a good idea to skip the uploading process until you get home so as not to instigate an argument from an ex, or soon-to-be ex-spouse.
For more information, the Weinberger Law Group website includes more on social media and when postings can come back to haunt you. You can also contact us about your divorce or other family law related matters and receive access to a free divorce guide by visiting www.WeinbergerLawGroup.com/Contact-Us.html. To watch our free webinar entitled "The 5 Critical Risks of Divorce - and steps you can take to protect yourself and your family," please visit www.freedivorcewebinar.com. The webinar will be available for viewing at any time, after which, if you reside or were married in New Jersey, you will be able to arrange to speak with a divorce and family lawyer from the firm to address any questions or to get more information.
Bari Z. Weinberger, the founding partner of Weinberger Law Group, LLC, is an expert New Jersey Divorce and Family Law attorney. She is Certified by the Supreme Court of NJ as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, a certification achieved by only 2% of the attorneys in New Jersey. Ms. Weinberger is also the associate author of the New Jersey Family Law Practice, a 5-volume treatise utilized by virtually every family law judge and attorney in the State. Her practice is located in Morris County, NJ and Monmouth County, NJ. Ms. Weinberger is a highly sought after attorney throughout the state as well as a legal expert for local and national media publications.