Social Media Impact On Divorce

Social media is a big part of our lives. But if you’re going through a divorce or battling for custody of your children, you need to understand the potential damaging role social media can play in your case.

To Post Or Not To Post

Many attorneys recommend you shut down your social media account completely until your divorce is final. While this may be sage advice, as it will prevent you from posting anything that could be harmful to you, be aware that even with your account “out of commission,” it is still subject to discovery by your ex’s attorney.

Do Not Delete

Furthermore, do not delete anything from your social media accounts! The judge can consider anything you delete as the destruction of evidence, and determine you are hiding something. You might want to delete a picture that you think makes you look fat. The judge might decide you deleted a picture depicting you drunk at a party, and that can be used as evidence you are unfit as a parent, and could cost you physical custody of your children. So never, never delete pictures or posts from your account(s).

If you choose to leave your account open, keep in mind that social media posts are now frequently used in divorce and custody cases as various types of evidence. Even a single picture of you holding a cocktail at a quiet work dinner with friends can turn you into a roaring drunk with a drinking problem, and pictures of trips, new cars or other “toys” can be used to show assets that may not have been previously disclosed. In such a case, the judge may think you are attempting to hide assets, which will never turn out well for you.

No Ex Bashing

Although it may sound like common sense, social media is not the place to trash-talk your ex, his/her attorney, the judge, or the court system in general. Emotions are running high, and you certainly need a support system, but don’t take it to the internet, where everyone is watching.

Even if you think you have your account privacy settings on, know and believe there are mutual friends of your ex who will tell him/her what you have posted. Always consider, before you post a picture or a comment, whether you would want it seen by the judge or a courtroom full of people, and whether it could be misunderstood if taken out of context.

…Can And Will Be Used Against You…

As stated above, social media is frequently used as evidence in divorce cases, so you should take care to consider what you are posting in light of how it may look to the judge or the other party. Pictures of new cars or “toys,” or you on vacations may infer you have the financial means to pay alimony (now called maintenance in most states), and pictures of you out “partying” with friends may be taken as “evidence” you are an unfit parent if you are trying to get custody or extended visitation, especially if you have forgone visits with your kids when the pictures are taken.

Also, some states have fault-based divorce, which can seriously impact your case, and if you are pictured, even once, in what can be twisted into a “compromising” situation with a member of the opposite sex (or same sex, in the case of same-sex marriages), no matter how innocent it may be, your no-fault divorce can now become a fault-based divorce, based on adultery. Your soon-to-be-ex doesn’t even have to necessarily prove you committed adultery, just that you had the opportunity – and you could lose a lot more than you originally thought, in the form of paying out alimony, inequitable distribution of assets, and loss of custody or visitation with your children.

Tips On Texting

One last thing to note, rein in your text messages as well. They, too, can be introduced as evidence in many jurisdictions, so keep it civil with your ex. Sending any type of abusive, harassing messages can damage your case. Refrain from arguing over text, using profanity, or name calling. Rest assured your ex will show his/her lawyer, and the lawyer will introduce it to the judge. There is no need to send repeated texts to your ex, even if they have the kids. You will have to accept that when the kids are with him/her, you no longer get to decide what your ex can or can’t do with the kids. Keep your texts short, on-point, and minimal. A good rule of thumb is don’t send anything you wouldn’t want the judge to read out loud at your next court hearing.

Keep A Cool Head On The Keyboard

All in all, a little common sense goes a long way. Social media allows us to keep in touch with family and friends and allows us to express ourselves in ways we could never have imagined a decade ago. But remember it can be a two-edged sword, and use it carefully and responsibly. And if you have children, they don’t want to watch their parents fight it out online, for all the world to see. And frankly, neither do most of your friends and family. Before clicking that share button, consider the impact it could have not only on your case, but on those around you – especially your children.

In Conclusion

So, just to sum up what’s been mentioned so far:

  • Consider staying off social media
  • Think about how your posts could be misinterpreted and used against you
  • Do not delete anything
  • Don’t bash the soon to be ex
  • Don’t slam the court or the system
  • Be careful in text messages
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Parenthood: Denied

Photo courtesy huffingtonpost.com

Photo courtesy huffingtonpost.com

Not too long ago, I ran across this article by Michael Signorile, about the proud new parents of twin boys

I was actually researching unmarried fathers’ rights att the time because I had learned unmarried fathers have few, if any, legal rights to their children, while they have immediate obligations of child support. Many times, unmarried fathers not only have to prove biological DNA relationships, but an ongoing physical relationship with the child before they are granted any rights like visitation or parenting.

But I digress…

This article discusses two married parents who sought a surrogate to implant embryos because they couldn’t have children themselves. The embryos – twins – were carried to term, delivered, and turned over to the biological parents.

BUT…

Neither parent is on the birth certificate of their biological children.

Only the surrogate mother, who is biologically unrelated to either child, is on the birth certificate.

Photo courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

Photo courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

How can this be? Because the parents are gay men, legally married in Washington, D.C., that’s how. But they live in Texas, where same sex marriage is not recognized.

Each man is the biological father of one of the boys. They want to co-adopt one another’s child. In Texas, to grant a second-parent adoption, it must be between two married people, and because Texas doesn’t recognize same sex marriages, it is up to the judge’s discretion whether or not to allow it.

There are so many issues here, I’m not sure where to begin.

First, obviously, is the problem with leaving something as important as the lives of these children up to the whims of a judge. There are other gay couples in Texas who have successfully completed cross adoptions. Why, then, is it ok to pick and choose which couples are acceptable parents and which are not? Is this not a violation of equal rights?

And then there’s the same sex marriage debate. This couple was legally married. Thirty seven states recognize same sex marriage. Support for gay marriage is at an all time high. It’s time for the Supreme Court to lay this argument to rest, once and for all. Application of the Full Faith and Credit Clause in Texas would completely change the game here, because second-parent adoption is automatic between two married people.

Finally, what I find particularly concerning, and disturbingly ignored, is the fact that these biological fathers remain absent from the birth certificates. Not only do they want to be recognized as the fathers, they want to raise their children. But because of inconsistent application of the laws not only from state to state, but within the state itself, they must fight an unprecedented – and unnecessary – battle to be the fathers they went to much effort and expense to become. As it stands, the only person with legal rights to these men’s sons is the surrogate mother who has no biological ties to the children whatsoever.

The future of this family, and countless others, hangs in the balance. The best interest of these children would be to recognize their fathers as their fathers, allow co-adoption, and let this family move on with their lives as a family. The simplest way to do it is by laying to rest the same sex marriage debate.

It’s time to recognize families, be they same-sex or opposite-sex, and to ensure equal protection of the laws as they were intended, as well as full faith and credit of the laws from state to state.

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My Daddy’s Just a Paycheck

Laws may vary from state to state, but when a child is born to unmarried couples, the mother usually has automatic full legal and physical custody at birth. Even if the father’s name is on the birth certificate, unless he takes steps to establish custodial rights, he has little more than the right to pay child support.

2010_Favorites_09Society – and our legal system – has made it difficult for unmarried fathers to be involved in their children’s lives. Without legal documentation, there is no recognition of a relationship, and once that legal documentation exists, the only relationship the legal system cares about is a financial one. As long as dad sends in a check, there is no regulation or accountability of the relationship between father and child. Mom can make it difficult or impossible for dad to even see the child. As long as she gets that money, she’s on to boyfriend number 2 or 3 or 6, carting the child along with her, and dad is left in the dust.

562488_4158544720612_137976538_nMy son is one of those dads. He hasn’t seen his daughter in years, not for lack of trying. He has a court order giving him unlimited telephone access, as well as ordering the mother to provide a current address and stating the child is not to be moved out of state. She moved from hotel to hotel, boyfriend to boyfriend, city to city. My son would locate her, and she would move. He would find her on social media and she would block him and shut it down. He finally learned she had left the state. When he spoke to the child support enforcement division, they sent him a letter informing him there was a new payee – the mother’s new husband. My son spoke to his daughter’s caseworker and was told she couldn’t give him any information because he wasn’t a party to the case. Now my son is paying child support to a man who has custody of his daughter, while he has been in a years-long battle trying to find his daughter. He filed contempt, was granted a hearing, but was unable to locate the mom to have papers served before the deadline.

Fathers need better protection. As more and more unmarried couples have children, it is inconceivable to force a father to establish and dispute custodial rights at the birth of his child. It is no longer in the best interest of the child to simply award primary custody to the mother. There is no accountability of the mothers. They are free to do as they please, while the courts monitor every misstep of the fathers. Enacting laws that would put mothers in jail or take away their driver licenses for violating court orders, just as they do when fathers miss child support payments, might reduce the incidences of alienating these fathers from their children.

The same piece of paper issued to force my son to pay child support was supposed to protect his access to his daughter and keep her in the state. Why can the state enforce only the piece against him, and nothing against his child’s mother?

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Are You My Mother?

It seems like every day on social media, more and more people are advertising to find their birth families.

Beyond the question of why they feel they must do so lies a much more 2010_Favorites_22fundamental question: why are they denied this knowledge?

For every child born, an original birth certificate (OBC) is issued, with the child’s birth date, time, place, and parents’ names. If that child is adopted, the birth certificate is amended to reflect the adoptive parents’ names and the child’s new name, if this is changed. It is the amended birth certificate (ABC) that the adoptee uses throughout their life. The OBC and other adoption records are sealed by the court, and are unavailable to the adoptee… ever. http://www.adoption.com/birth-certificates-for-adoptees/

The 14th Amendment provides that all laws be applied equally to all persons, without discrimination. However, adoptees are being denied access to their own original birth certificates, while non-adopted citizens have direct legal access to their OBCs. Are adoptees and their parents part of some suspect class of people who need a separate set of laws that apply only to them? Certainly not, and denying an adoptee access to a vital record that is freely accessible to every other citizen is a violation of rights that should clearly not be tolerated. http://www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/adoptee-access-to-birth-certificates-protects-their-parents-privacy/

2011_Favorites_011By denying adoptees access to their own personal records, they are forced to resort to begging on social media or avail themselves of DNA services that connect blood relatives who register with their companies, potentially risking the privacy of their blood relatives. “Giving adoptees access to their own vital birth certificates is the fair and equitable thing to do in a nation that prides itself on upholding human and civil rights, and it is also the safer, kinder and more private way to protect birth parents allowing what are personal and family matters to remain private. Maintaining sealed adoption records does not protect mothers and fathers of birth but rather puts them in far more jeopardy of public exposure.

It is time for all states to get on-board and restore these rights that have been denied for too long. Adoption is intended to provide children a “better” life and is purported to be “the same as if” being born into one’s family. Let’s make that a bit more true by ending discriminatory laws that treat adopted persons differently from everyone else.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mirah-riben/adoptee-access-to-birth-certificates-protects-their_b_7064928.html

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