Part Two on Social Media in Family Law Cases: How to Damage Your Support or Property Case
In Part One of our blog series on social media and family law, we examined the negative effect that your posts on social media may have on your custody case.
Typical pitfalls of social media as it relates to a custody case involve making nasty comments about the other parent, or posting pictures and comments that could be used to make a moral argument regarding your behavior. But what effect could social media posts have on a case involving financial support or property issues?
Financial support in divorce cases comes in the form of child support, which is support for your children, or alimony, which is support for a current or former spouse. In addition, as part of your separation and divorce, the Court may be requested to divide up property between married couples. This also includes a financial component. You may think that something you post on social media could not possibly be relevant in a support or property case, but whether you are the party seeking support or the party from whom support is being sought; social media can work against you if you aren’t careful.
The same argument applies if you are trying to decrease your alimony and child support payments, but you have the created the appearance of disposable income that enables you to do seemingly frivolous things, all while requesting for the Court to lower your support payments. While some may see this as unfair, the Court can be influenced by these alleged spending habits depicted in what you share online and cause your credibility to suffer.
When it comes to child support, determining the amount of support is generally straightforward. For parents who are both employed and receive regular income as evidenced by a pay statement or tax form, child support could be a fairly open and shut case. However, more complicated child support issues often come up in the context of a parent who is behind in child support payments or trying to reduce or increase the current child support obligation amount. These same concepts and issues also apply to alimony or spousal support.
If you are behind in your support payments, the other party may file a motion for contempt. This motion is based on the allegation that there is a current court order in place regarding support that is not being followed. One defense to non-payment of support could be that you currently do not have the means to pay the support amount. Well, what happens to that argument when the opposing party shows the Court pictures you posted on Instagram of you at a concert, going out for a nice dinner, or taking a vacation? Now, the dinner may have been paid for by your significant other and the vacation may be a family trip paid for by your parents, but this creates the appearance of spending money on things other than support for your children or former spouse.
While property issues may be an area less susceptible to damage by social media posts, there is still some danger for damage depending on the items in dispute. For example, in an equitable distribution case the court is valuing and dividing up marital property. Each party is tasked with showing their value for all items of marital property. Vehicles are typically part of the marital estate. While each party may agree they keep the vehicles they drive, the value may be disputed and have an effect on the Court’s overall distribution of assets and debts. If you own a classic car, which can be difficult to value, the party keeping that vehicle is going to attempt to assign a lower value. How can the other side combat the alleged value that they think is well under what the vehicle is worth? What about the post on Craigslist, or a social media page devoted to classic car sales where you once attempted to sell the vehicle for a really high price? You can bet if the opposing party found that post or website, they are going to bring that information to Court to show what you tried to sell the vehicle for, despite telling the Court that the vehicle was worth much less. Not only will that potentially change the Court’s assigned value of that particular vehicle, it may cause the Court to doubt your values on other items.
It’s important to remember in an age of internet and technology; anything can be seen by anyone that you post publicly online. A savvy attorney or opposing party can use the Internet and technology to find a variety of things that you thought were deleted or no longer existed. If you are in the middle of a case involving financial support or property, now may be the time to take a break from your social media habits and turn back the clock to the days before social media was so readily accessible. If you can see your posts or comments on social media, so can someone else. Don’t let your own posts and actions come back to haunt you because no matter how innocent they seem, your posts can and will be used against you in a court of law.
If you follow the above steps, before you know it, you will have the first meeting under you belt. You should now be feeling educated and empowered about choosing independence, and choosing if divorce is right for you. If you are considering separation or divorce contact Sodoma Law by phone 704.442.0000 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to talk with an attorney and set up your initial consultation.