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Navigating the shoals: Divorce and social media

People today are so hooked on social media that — quite ironically — on the social media site YouTube, there are dozens of video compilations of people so engrossed in their smartphones that they step into traffic, walk into poles, etc.

But if you are going through a divorce, no matter how much a part of your former life daily Instagram shots and Facebook status updates were, restrain yourself now. Your digital footprint can wind up having a major impact on the outcome of any pending divorce and custody litigation.

Don't self-incriminate

Your soon-to-be ex can use anything that you post online to affect the amounts of spousal or child support, or even to limit custody in some cases. It doesn't matter whether you blocked your ex online. There are other ways to access that information and use it against you. Remember, a screenshot is forever.

It's not just social media

Text messages and emails can be subject to court subpoena and be admitted as evidence in a divorce hearing. The rule of thumb is if you wouldn't want it to become public knowledge, don't type it out and hit "send."

Even if you think it's a fairly innocuous text conversation, it could still potentially impact the outcome of your divorce settlement. Suppose you text your mom that you are thinking of leaving California to take a job in Texas that pays more. Were that to be known by the court, your custody status or child support could be adversely affected.What message are you sending online?

It's human nature to try to put your best self out there online. That's one reason for all those flattering selfie filters and photo-shopping apps. But if your online message is that you are rolling in the big bucks and you're telling the court that you are hardly getting by, the disparity is very likely to be pointed out by your spouse's attorney.

Any hyper-aggressive posts, shots of weapons or mention of gunplay, any pictures with you with a beer or a mixed drink in your hand could all detract from your image as a responsible and fit parent when you're fighting for custody of your children.

Be wary of others' posts

Sometimes it's not what you post online but what others post of you doing. Don't let anyone take your picture in group bar shots during the pendency of your divorce proceedings. Think twice about how that shot of you lounging on the deck of a wealthy friend's boat with an umbrella drink in your hand might play out in a hearing for child or spousal support.

It's no fun to be the killjoy who always shouts, "No pictures, please!" but divorce is a life-changing event and must be effectively managed.

You should also level with your family law attorney if there is something in your past that could affect the outcome of a custody battle. It is far better for them to learn of it from you and plan accordingly than to be blindsided by your ex's counsel of record in court.

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