What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens outside the courtroom will not necessarily remain outside the courtroom. Do not mistakenly believe that as long as your conduct is okay inside the courtroom, you can do and say whatever you would like in all other situations. Many an ex has made this assumption and been burned by an email or a careless comment left on Facebook. Your out of court behavior matters. Play it safe by following these guidelines:
- Social media can be used as evidence in court – This means NO posts that you wouldn’t want shown in court. No partying pics. No photos of you at a strip club. No close-ups of you downing beer through a funnel. Why give the other party any ammunition to make more claims against you?
- And no negative comments about your ex, the lawyers, the judges . . . NOTHING. Nothing good can come from posting on Twitter that your soon-to-be former husband is an SOB who probably steals office supplies from his job, or that the judge is an obvious feminist who looks to screw men in her courtroom whenever possible. Nothing more needs to be said.
- Corollary to the above: You are NOT going to be able to hide bad posts if you keep making them. Divorce lawyers have learned to be social media bloodhounds. (Or we have young staff members who are good at finding everything.) Also, once the case has been filed, you cannot “clean up” your social media. If there are things that need cleaning up, do it before the case is filed. Besides removing partying pictures, also purge photos showing inappropriate or illegal activities, and violence. Also, review and print out (or otherwise save) all damaging social media content from the other party.
- Start blocking the other party and their family and friends immediately – Sure you always got along with your in-laws. They may have even wanted you to attend their parties more than they wanted your spouse. Don’t be fooled. At the end of the day, they are your ex’s family and friends, not yours. Again, always assume that everyone is watching what you post—and not with the best of intentions.
- Change your email address – When you file for divorce, separate, or get served with court papers about a divorce or custody case, it is time for a new email address if your ex has access to your current one. Your attorney is going to want to communicate with you privately, so make sure nobody has access to that communication other than you.
- Do not change your ex’s name on your phone to something nasty – Text messages are easily admitted as evidence in court along with the nasty label you have given them. Just use your ex’s name. And if you have already given them a nasty name, change it BEFORE any court papers get filed. EVERY email and text message between you and your ex, or between you and anyone related to or friendly with your ex, could become evidence in court. While your case is pending (in fact if you have kids you should do this until they are 18 years old) write every text and email to your ex or to your ex’s supporters as if the judge is reading over your shoulder—because he/she may, in fact, do that in a courtroom at a later date.
- NEVER talk to your kids about court, even if they ask – This ban includes financial issues, custody issues, and anything else the court would consider an adult matter. If your child volunteers a problem about the other house, listen to it, and then tell your lawyer ASAP. DO NOT grill your child or ask more questions to get more details. Judges consider this a form of abuse and will not look kindly upon such behavior. Finally, NEVER insult your ex when your kids can hear, and don’t let others do it when your children are present. This is not only harmful to your case, but it also hurts the children because they view themselves as half one parent and half the other parent.
Anger at an ex is natural. The court does not expect a divorcing couple to remain friends, but it does insist that spouses act civilly towards each other, especially when there are children involved. Blowing off steam by exposing your ex’s “bad side” on Facebook or Instagram may feel great while doing it, but that fun ends quickly when the judge uses the post to rule against you. Repeat this to yourself as often as is necessary: My out of court behavior matters.
Don’t do it.