If you’re considering a divorce on Long Island, be careful what you post on any social media channel. Actions you take on such social media properties as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, or any other social media accounts you may have (including dating websites!) can have important consequences in divorce court in Nassau or Suffolk County.
For many people, social media puts all the details of your life within a mouse click of the rest of the world, and if you are not careful, you may be exposing more than you think or desire. Consider anything you do online, even if a “private message”, as public. If you’re doing something using the Internet, there’s a record somewhere of nearly every keystroke you make from behind your computer screen.
A recent case out of the Appellate Division, Third Department, Matter of Melody M. v. Robert M., highlighted just how dangerous social media can be while in the midst of a divorce.
A separation agreement provided that the father would have primary physical custody of the couple’s three young children, while the mother was permitted one weekday evening visit and visitation on weekends. Eventually, the mother sought a modification of the custody agreement, which the court rejected and awarded the father sole physical custody of the three children.
One of the provisions of the new court order, was a restraining order was issued against the mother, intending to prevent her from posting anything to or from her children on social media sites. Of great importance to the court’s determination to award the father sole physical custody of the children was the mother’s previous negative use of her Facebook profile.
Rather than use the site to keep in touch with and communicate with friends, she used the site as an outlet for her anger toward her oldest child, who also suffered from a mental illness. More specifically, she posted on Facebook that her child was an “asshole.” The court ruled that this use of Facebook was sufficient evidence “to justify the court’s issuance of the order of protection” and prevent the modification of the custody agreement.
This ruling out of the Third Department, should serve as a warning to anyone considering a divorce of the dangers of what may be a seemingly innocent Facebook post.
While the child’s mother likely posted the statement out of anger and frustration at her child, to post such comments to the mass public paints her in a negative light and calls her character into question. In acting in the best interests of the child, Nassau and Suffolk County courts will hesitate to grant physical custody of children to a parent that they feel have displayed questionable activities and morals.
Social media posts aren’t only important in child custody cases. Any aspect of your divorce, from property division to child support could be impacted by something you unwittingly posted on a social media channel. Consider how posting a picture of your new Mercedes might be perceived by the courts when trying to claim you need more child support or claim you can’t afford to pay more child support.
Important tips you should be aware of while using the Internet throughout your divorce:
- First and foremost, the safest option would be to delete all of your social media accounts. While you can control what statuses or pictures you post, you cannot control those of your friends or family and what they can post about you. As a pilot once told me as my plane landed in Las Vegas, “What happens in Vegas ends up on Facebook.”
- If you do not wish to delete your social media accounts, then you should look into the various privacy settings offered through each network. Facebook enables you to approve things others post before they appear on your page, and Instagram has the option of making your account completely private, so your pictures are only viewable to those you accept as “friends.”
- Only accept “friend requests” from people you know personally and, most importantly, trust unconditionally. While Facebook has the “People You May Know” feature, if you are going through something personal it is important to keep your life just that – personal. Just because your next-door-neighbor knows Sally Jane who is now requesting you to be her “friend” does not mean she wouldn’t be the reason you lose physical custody of your children.
- And finally, be smart about the use of these networks. Once something enters the Internet, it is there forever. You may post something out of anger, sadness, or rage, and delete it a few minutes later, but you do not know how many individuals saw that post within the 120 seconds of its existence.
While this may seem like a common sense list of tips, you would be surprised at how many individuals are tricked by what they perceive to be the “safeness” of the Internet. You can be anything you want online, whether it is something good or bad, and at times people get carried away with the belief that the Internet is a separate realm from “the real world”. Try Googling yourself one day and you may be surprised at the personal information that pops up so quickly. While going through your divorce on Long Island, NY, you want to make sure that personal information is nothing that can potentially be used against you in Nassau or Suffolk County Court.
Have Questions About Social Media and Divorce in Nassau or Suffolk on Long Island, NY?
The divorce attorneys and divorce mediators at Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. are very familiar with the latest decisions by the courts in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, NY. We can help you navigate the sometimes murky waters of divorce law and ensure your interests are protected to the fullest. If you have questions about your divorce, feel free to contact us at 631-923-1910 for a complementary consultation in our comfortable offices in Melville, NY or fill out the short form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.