Divorce in the Facebook Era

Since Facebook has become a constant in Americans’ lives in the past decade, it should be no surprise that Facebook is also a constant in Americans’ divorces.  Every now and then I’ll hear about a case where the client discovered their spouse’s infidelity via Facebook, which triggered the divorce.  Mostly, however, Facebook is useful once the divorce proceeding has begun.

Child Support
Child Support is based on a formula, which requires the accurate identification of each party’s weekly income.   In the best scenarios, parties are forthcoming with their tax returns and pay stubs, and it is not difficult to accurately determine weekly income.  In challenging scenarios, parties are obtuse, do not file taxes, and allege they have no income.

Imagine a situation where Mom has not filed her taxes in the past four years.  She alleges she is unemployed due to a disability and unable to work.  Yet, on Facebook, there are multiple pictures of Mom at her sister’s daycare center, helping supervise the children and care for them.  These pictures can help Dad prove that Mom is employed under the table by her family.  Dad will then obtain a recalculation of child support based on Mom’s unreported earnings and the Court might sanction Mom.

Or consider a case where Dad stops paying for the life insurance policy on which the children are the beneficiaries because he alleges the economy has hit him hard.  Then, Mom finds Facebook pictures or status updates from his recent vacation to Aruba.  The Court is going to want to know how he was able to afford this vacation if he is unable to maintain his life insurance policy.

I’ve seen situations where the parties receive an individually-tailored custody arrangement.  For example, there might be a case where Dad receives weekend visitation as long as his brother, who is an acknowledged drug abuser, is not present.  As you can imagine, Dad will be held in contempt if Mom presents Facebook photos of the children hanging out with Dad and Uncle over the weekend.  Dad will also likely lose his unsupervised weekend visitation. 

Courts determine custodial arrangements based on the best interests of the child, and health and hygiene are factored into that analysis.  Let’s say Mom throws a party at her house, and her friends post numerous photos of the party on Facebook.  In the photos, one can see pictures into the children’s room, in which there is water leaking from a pipe, mold growing on the ceiling, and perishable food strewn about.  If the opposing party presents these Facebook photos, it is likely that the custodial arrangement will be reconsidered.

Finally, almost all judges emphasize the importance of not bashing one’s ex in front of the children.  Nowadays, this extends to Facebook.  It is crucial that you do not badmouth your ex anywhere your child can hear or read.