Everyone seems to have his or her own place on the Internet – whether it is a site on Facebook or MySpace or an advertisement for a business. There are also numerous Internet dating services. However, if you are going through a divorce or other Family Court proceeding, you may want to think twice about what you are posting on these web sites that are available to many people.
Dirty jokes or risqué photographs may come back to haunt you during custody proceedings – particularly if the children are able to access this web page. Sometimes it is the children themselves who have been added to the list of people granted access to the web page and who, in turn, pass this information on to the other parent. Posting nasty and hostile things about your ex is also not a good idea. If there are children in common, the courts are reluctant to give custody to a parent who is openly hateful and disparaging of the other parent. Posting this information on the Internet is a way of advertising your hostility. It may also provide the motive if your estranged spouse or paramour files for a restraining order. While Facebook and MySpace may only be open to people you have “friended,” the information posted on the sites can get out and into the hands of the opposing party or the children.
Likewise, parents of teenage children have to be careful about monitoring their children’s own MySpace or Facebook pages. In my practice, I have been involved in a number of cases where parents have been surprised to find out in court what their children are posting on the Internet. A custody hearing is not the place to find out that your adolescent child is drinking or using illegal drugs or posing provocatively for the world to see. Also, please make sure that you supervise children to make sure they are only visiting age-appropriate web sites. Parental controls do not necessarily eliminate all the risk. Also, if children are able to log on as the parent, the parental controls are useless.
Online dating services post information that is available to other members of the same dating service. While most singles want to post information on dating sites that will attract members of the opposite sex, remember your ex is also likely to be looking and it may be that he or she is using the same online dating service and will come across your profile. Posting a large exaggerated income may sound like a good idea to get dates, but it can also result in a large child support or alimony award. At the very least, such an exaggeration can put your credibility at issue if your tax returns do not match the Internet postings. Other information that can land you in hot water is indicating to prospective paramours a willingness to relocate when you have children who would be affected by such a move. Posting pictures with the children on dating websites is something that may seem harmless, but often draws complaints from the other parent, who may view it as using the children as advertisements or as exposing the children to potential predators.
Finally, keep in mind that a family computer which is used by both spouses and sometimes the children is not necessarily private. Information may be obtained from the hard drive by someone who knows what they are doing. Damaging information obtained from a hard drive can include evidence of extra-marital affairs, evidence of drug use, or shopping and gambling addictions.
The following article is informational only and not intended as legal advice. Speak with a licensed attorney about your own specific situation. © Copyright 2011 MacElree Harvey, Ltd. All rights reserved.