Copyright (c) 2010 Lucille Uttermohlen
Don’t say it on Facebook, Twitter or any place on the Internet if you don’t want it to come up in your divorce. You aren’t under oath when you visit those places, but your spouse can bring some interesting reading to the judge’s attention. You could lose a custody dispute, marital property, or end up paying debts as a result of a few not so well chosen posts.
My first contact with the Internet in a divorce case was several years ago. One of my clients thought she had met the man of her dreams in a chat room. He was in Australia , and, although she had only been to visit him once, she abandoned a 20 year marriage to be with him.
We fought the divorce tooth and nail. Her husband felt that she shouldn’t get any of their property because she had had an affair. She thought she should get most of what they acquired during their marriage because she was a home maker before she met Mr. Kangarooland, had no work experience, and besides, Hubby, in her humble opinion, was, and always would be a jerk.
After they finally went their separate ways, she flew to the arms of her Australian lover. About a month later, she called to ask me a question about her decree.
“So, how are things down under?” I asked.
“I’ve been back in the United States for several weeks,” she said. “He was abusive, so I left him and came home.”
The Internet has made the art of marital fence jumping into an Olympic sport. The explosion of social networking has added to the drama of divorce, providing as it does a way to prove things some people would rather not brag about in court. Facebook posts, tweets and other Internet contributions make it possible to forget that the dirty laundry you’re airing might be brought to your divorce judge’s attention in an embarrassing way. Here are some examples of what I mean:
1. Hubby says he is a Christian man who would never let alcohol or drugs cross his lips. His virtuous demeanor is shattered when Wifey Dearest shows the judge pictures from Hubby’s “My Space” page of Hubby praying to heaven with a beer in one hand, while giving half a peace sign with the other. Of course, if he really gave a good show, there will be a bong or joint clearly visible at his side.
2. The Wife is feeling abused because Hubby Dearest has downloaded porn onto their computer. He is having an affair, and she wants the judge to know he is a jerk because of it. Hubby counters with a `few well chosen Twit Pics, displaying as much of his wife as he’s ever seen, or at least as much as she can show without getting arrested or kicked off the service. Her photographic efforts come into evidence, and blushing a bright Christmas red, the judge looks it over. Of course, both attorneys get a peak as well.
3. Hubby swears that church mice are wealthy citizens compared to him. His business has failed. He was robbed at gun point. He is lucky to scrape enough money together to avoid starvation and nakedness.
Wifey Dearest produces pictures from Hubby’s FB account, showing him proudly displaying his new motorcycle, big screen TV and young, sexy girlfriend. Not content with the generous supply of eye candy he has provided, he brags about the upcoming tropical vacation his new fling and he are planning to take. Of course, the judge helps him reconsider his financial priorities.
The above stories are just a few examples of how careless Internet behavior can hurt and embarrass. People get on-line, and forget that not everyone viewing their post is a stranger. We may think we are impressing the people who have “friended” us, and the ones who “follow” us, but in reality, we are telling the spouse, her friends and relatives how we like to be perceived by others. Of course, they are happy to correct any wrong ideas of our good citizenship that we may be hoping to give the divorce judge.
Most of the time, the exaggerated impressions we give can’t hurt us. People walk by on the street and think, “what a nice hair cut”. “I love that jacket he’s wearing.” or even “she must be rolling in it”. However, it is just a fleeting contact, and is of no personal consequence to them.
However, trying to look like nature’s gift to humanity on the Internet can backfire in a divorce setting. Sure, our on-line buddies may be impressed, amused or envious. However, the divorce judge may see this false public image as the documented truth. After all, all it takes to make a court exhibit out of on-line displays is a computer, an Internet account and a cheap printer.
About the Author:
A law practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it does provide interesting stories. To see what I mean, join me on my blog: http://www.couple-or-not.com/blog/ And, if you have legal questions, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quick thorough response