In today’s world, social media usage is so commonplace that to encounter a person that does not involve him or herself in online activities of this sort is sort of strange. I have not been involved in social media activity since my wife and I were married in 2013. No Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter, etc. For me, it was as simple as looking at my circumstances and those of my family and determining that there was no benefit to spending time online versus spending time doing other things. I have a personality where I could get sucked into social media and spend too much time online.
To avoid this temptation/distraction, I just don’t engage in those pursuits at all. I know my limitations and shortcomings. I acknowledge that I could see myself having a problem with it, so I actively work to avoid putting myself in those types of situations. Most of you reading this blog post, I would imagine, do have some sort of social media presence. If that is the case for you, you should pay special attention to today’s blog post. The reason being is that today we will be discussing how social media could and probably will play a role in your divorce or child custody case.
Should you get a divorce? Use social media as a resource to find out.
Many people on the precipice of a divorce or child custody case are unsure whether they should proceed. Some of us are willing to trust our “guts” more than others. Or, you may be on the other end of the spectrum and are prone to second-guessing yourself out of a good decision. Either way, social media can be an effective tool for you to utilize to look up information on how to decide whether or not to move forward with a child custody or divorce case.
Some so many people are either in your situation as far as deciding whether or not to move forward with a case or have recently come out of a divorce or another sort of family law case. You can use your social network to get in touch with these people, even if it is just online, to start a dialogue to learn whether or not it is a wise decision for you to move forward with your family law case.
Learning what those folks went through, their circumstances, and the result of their case can be very informative for you. Collecting information along the way of your family law case is important. Collecting information before you file a case is even more important because it can help you prevent making a mistake that can cost you time, money, and, most importantly, relationships. If there are friends, friends of friends, or extended relationships like that you can tap for advice, I would recommend you do so. There isn’t a better place to begin looking for help in this regard than social media.
I would caution you when looking for perspective on divorce or child custody cases online because you need to be comfortable with and knowledgeable of your circumstances before comparing yourself to another person. One of the ways that social media has harmed our generation of Americans is that we are so keen on comparing ourselves to those around us. Social media causes us to confront one another every day in direct comparison to what our profile looks like compared to another. We see what others post, and we start to believe that this is what our lives need to/are supposed to look like. From there, we can make decisions that may not be the best for us but are made out of concern that our lives don’t look like they are supposed to.
Be comfortable with who you are and the results of your decisions. If you are not comfortable with your life and your choices, then you probably should not take my advice and use social media as a tool to determine whether you are ready for a family law case. In that case, talk to your close circle of family and friends about your circumstances rather than relying on social media for help.
Finding legal help with the assistance of social media
Are you an attorney? The percentages say that, no, you are not. Most people are not lawyers, even though it seems like you can’t throw a rock these days and not hit a lawyer or two. Are you a veteran of family law cases? Thankfully you are likely not a person who has been through a family law case previously. Do you have an attorney in your family? Maybe, but the odds are the attorney is not a family law attorney. Nor would you probably want to hire a relative to reveal personal details about your marriage or family life.
In that case, how would you go about hiring an attorney to represent you in a family law case if you decided to move forward and file? Would you know who to turn to? Would you know what sort of attorney to hire? What sort of questions would you need to ask a potential attorney, and what sort of information would you need to make available to them? Finally, what does an attorney typically charge to represent a person like you in a family law case?
If you are willing to put in the effort (and you should be), using social media can help you learn the answers to these important questions. Attorneys are keen to advertise their services online and use social media to get the word out about themselves and their law practice. Getting in touch with an attorney is as simple as searching online. Even the most old-school lawyer these days has some degree of an online presence. All you need to do is learn how to use social media to find out information.
For instance, you may have interviewed an attorney you are interested in hiring for an upcoming divorce. You got a good feeling from meeting with her but are curious about what other people are saying about their prior experiences hiring her. Skeptical of the reviews on her website, you log on to her social media pages to look at comments, reviews, and other information that may be helpful. Simply searching her name on the various websites can generate a lot of unfiltered information for you to utilize in your quest to find the right attorney for you and your case.
As always, it would be wise to consider the source when it comes to your information. I don’t have the space to go through how to sift through the “bad” information to reach the “good” information. However, if you will use social media to determine what one person has said about an attorney, you should also put some effort into the search process to get a good idea of what many people have had to say. Otherwise, you may end up relying too heavily on the opinion of a person whose perspective may be biased or flat-out wrong.
Another advantage of using social media to find out information on an attorney is that it offers you the benefit of convenience. Instead of driving across town to meet with a lawyer, most attorneys are willing to offer Zoom or Skype interviews instead. Now it may be convenient, but many lawyers and clients were primarily concerned with safety for the past year. I like the person-to-person interaction when making a big decision like hiring an attorney, but you may feel comfortable with online meetings just the same. Social media allows you another opportunity to interact with attorneys that were not available to you previously.
Using social media as a means of collecting evidence in your divorce
I think the most common way that we consider using social media in the context of a divorce is to collect information that can be used as evidence in a hearing or trial. Much of what we say online is done from the comfort of our homework from a place that we consider safe and comfortable. When you post photographs of last weekend’s events on your couch in your living room, it is human nature to feel like the things you are doing will have no impact on the larger world. After all, you are in the comfort of your own home and posting things online with your friends.
However, the reality of the Internet is that the information that you post is not limited to the people that follow you on social media or are close friends or family. Much of what you post online can be seen by the entire online world, even if you do not know that person. Many of us with social media profiles have limited privacy settings where we only allow many people to view our activities and see what we’re up to with our online lives. As a result, information, photographs, and less than flattering evidence can be obtained by performing simple social media searches.
When a client hires our law firm to represent, one of the first things our attorney will do is conduct a basic search of different social media platforms to see what the client-side looks like online in what the opposing parties look like online. Much of the time, we discovered no additional information. Still, on occasion, it could be that we find interesting tidbits like photographs, status updates from locations that catch someone in a lie, or even potentially dangerous situations involving the client’s children.
For example, I can recall an instance a few years ago when an opposing party had repeatedly told our client that he had not taken his children to a party with himself and his friends during the prior month. That weekend was an issue for our client because their daughter had come home with some cuts and bruises, and she would not say where they were from. Our client suspected that the injuries were sustained while she was unsupervised by a friend of her ex-husbands. He maintains that no party had been attended in that she had simply fallen while playing in his backyard.
Through the wonders of social media, we immediately found a photograph in a social media post with this man at the party he says he didn’t attend, and lo and behold; photographs existed of the children at the same party. It was clear from the photographs that drinking was ongoing, and drug use was being alluded to. This was seen as a key bit of information and was immediately made available to the other side in hopes that we could use those photographs as a bargaining tool used towards helping our client I go she ate an effective settlement rather than proceeding to a prolonged child custody matter.
My point in all of this is to say that you need to be careful about posting online. You have probably heard that from other people in other contexts, but I believe it is essential regarding the world of divorce in child custody. Once a case is filed or even once your Co-parent starts to get the idea that they want to file a case against you should assume that multiple people are beginning to look at your social media doings with at least some curiosity.
Whereas even ten years ago, a judge may have been skeptical of allowing into evidence and hearing their child information obtained on social media profiles, it has become much more commonplace these days. When I tell clients about the Internet and computers, in general, publicly available information is fair game that you should never use a legal means to access electronic messages or emails. Otherwise, as they say, all is fair in love and war.
Using social media intelligently during a divorce
I realize that not all of you would be interested in taking my course of action and eliminating social media from your lives. Going cold turkey when it comes to posting on Facebook or Twitter may not be something you are interested in or is even realistic for you. However, my advice would be to strongly consider at least limiting your use of social media during your divorce. In the long run, the advantages of not using social media during the divorce are whatever short-term benefit you derive from using the different platforms available to us.
For starters, you never know what the single folks or photograph could be construed as by your spouse. Even if something is misconstrued and taken out of context, it can create a temporary circumstance that is at least stressful and at the very least can be utilized against him now. You would not believe how creative a spouse can be when they are there is no vantage to gain from using an out-of-context photograph or piece of information from the Internet. Even if nothing is lost or gain from your social media, they can still cause the time to be spent dealing with an issue that could have been avoided had you not use social media. Keep in mind that any time spent by your attorney working on an issue will cost you money. Hello
Next, if you believe that there is information on different social media platforms that could be utilized in your case and you should make your attorney aware of it, at this point, attorneys are more than used to receiving truckloads of printouts and email attachments showing potentially combustible information hosted by a spouse online. And let your attorney judge what was not relevant or what could help you in your divorce. Also, there is a fine line between not providing enough information to your attorney and printing out an entire year’s worth of social media postings and placing it on his desk at your consultation.
The other thing that I will mention is that if you do get divorced and are in a temporary order hearing or trial, getting social media posts before a judge for consideration is not as simple as printing out the screenshot and handing it to the judge. There is a process regarding offering and admitting the information into evidence that requires a certain process to be followed. As such, it is recommended that you have an experienced family law attorney fireside to help you ensure that process is followed and good information does not go to waste.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material in today’s blog postfamily law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultation over the phone and via video. These consultations go a long way toward helping you learn more about the world of Texas family law, and your circumstances interact with the law in our state.