Anything you post on social media during a divorce can, and likely will, be used against you in your dissolution proceedings. It is extremely important to avoid posting about getting divorced on all your social media profiles because anything that can be construed negatively against you, can be lodged with the Court. This can happen even if you delete it. All it takes is one screenshot from the opposing party, a mutual friend, or a family member for the post to be preserved and lodged or filed with the Court.
Not only should you remain aware of your actual posts, but you also want to make sure your replies to others or your comments on other postings will not be construed in a negative light when it comes to custody and visitation, division of your assets, or to the Court in general for other contested issues.
This is not to say you cannot continue using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., during a dissolution, but it is more about being aware of what you post, when you post it, and how these online posts are relevant to your dissolution matter.
One other thing to keep in mind is that posting a disparaging remark about the other party or a picture painting yourself in a questionable light does not necessarily disappear just because you delete it. There are ways to retrieve prior postings or to obtain photos or posts you think are deleted. It is also wise to check your privacy settings at the beginning of a dissolution. The stricter the privacy settings, the less likely it is any posts will be seen by the opposing party.
If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say
The age-old saying goes “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is particularly true in dissolution cases with a custody and visitation component. One of the things the Court considers in determining custody orders is the relationship between the parents. A parent who posts disparaging remarks about his or her former spouse on social media looks like a parent who is not willing to co-parent successfully and peacefully. This is a major red flag to the Court because it is in a child’s best interest for parents to get along.
Additionally, most custody and visitation orders contain a provision prohibiting both parents from speaking negatively about the other in front of the children and from discussing the case with the children. When a parent publishes a post on social media containing details of the case or speaking negatively of the other parent, nothing is stopping the children from seeing the post directly or through a friend or family member.
If a parent is going to maintain social media accounts during a dissolution proceeding, it is in his or her best interest to completely refrain from posting on social media about the dissolution, private matters between the parents, or custody and visitation. It is also important to pay close attention to the accounts you “follow” and interact with by posting comments or responding to others.
How to Handle Social Media Moving Forward
If you are going through a dissolution, regardless of whether or not you have children, you can successfully maintain social media accounts as long as you remain aware of what you are posting. Aside from custody and visitation issues, social media postings become very relevant to the issue of child and spousal support. A party who purports to have no income, but posts pictures and videos of multiple vacations quickly loses credibility in the eyes of the Court.
If there is a restraining order, it is particularly important for the restrained party to avoid any form of communication with the protected party. This means no messaging through social media, no “liking” or reacting to the protected party’s posts, and no comments on pictures of the protected party regardless of who posts the picture because all of these could be violations of the restraining order (depending on the wording of the order). The protected party should also refrain from engaging with the restrained party in any way on social media. Engagement on social media can diminish the protected party’s fear of the restrained party, which is necessary for the restraining order to remain in effect.
Additionally, some parties are under an order to notify the other party of a change in employment. If a party does not comply with this order, but posts about it on social media, the Court will be less than thrilled. If you are going to maintain social media during a dissolution case, your best bet is to make your accounts as private as possible, triple check your “friends” list to ensure your posts are not going to get back to the other side, and avoid posting about the dissolution, about custody and visitation, or your former spouse.
The Importance of the CFLS Designation
A Certified Family Law Specialist, or CFLS, is an attorney who has obtained certification in the standards of California family law and demonstrated optimal legal competence. Attorneys who obtain this certification have specific expertise in all aspects of family law, which includes divorce or the dissolution of marriage, child and spousal support, child custody, and temporary restraining orders, among other areas of emphasis.
Not every attorney practicing family law has obtained this certification. In fact, the designation remains relatively rare—there are fewer than 2,000 CFLS attorneys in California and fewer than 200 in San Diego.