Social media. To many it as an easy means of venting frustration or expressing jubilance. Social media generally offer either a written or a pictorial view of the current state of one’s life. Power users may even add clever videos capturing important events. Does social media play any role in family law? Absolutely.
We all recognize the term social media to encompass various networking sites. Facebook has long outlived Myspace and made it appear a passing fad. Other popular outlets are Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. LinkedIn is another, allowing business people to interact with each other. With a few brilliant keystrokes, one has the ability to undress their thoughts on the World Wide Web. Some may even post photographs that barely cover the essentials. After all, what is the harm? Privacy restrictions are in place. How could social media possibly hurt a family law case?
The unpublished court opinion of Quinn v. Quinn, No. A-2876-11T1, (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. May 14, 2014) is a prime example of how social media can affect a family law case. The Quinns are a Burlington County couple who divorced in 2006. As part of their divorce negotiations, Mr. Quinn agreed to pay both child support and alimony. The divorce papers also mandated that alimony would cease if the wife cohabited with someone or remarried.
The former Mrs. Quinn became involved with a gentleman friend. She was so happy with her new relationship that she began using Facebook to highlight some of her good times. She even referred to her boyfriend’s offspring as her stepchildren in a Facebook post. The former Mrs. Quinn used Facebook to document when the couple bought a Florida timeshare together. These posts just helped to cement other testimony and evidence that the two considered themselves committed to each other. Other proofs showed that the lovebirds lived together for a total of 28 months.
By the time the husband applied to the court to have alimony terminated, the former Mrs. Quinn’s relationship ended with her long-term boyfriend. Ultimately, the court decided that Mr. Quinn should receive credit for money he paid while his former life cohabitated with her boyfriend. However, the balance of the payments was not terminated.
This is a very real demonstration of how social media can work against the outcome of a family law case. It is difficult to dispute something written by an individual’s own pen, or in this case, keyboard. Make sure your social media settings are secure. Better yet, reflect on anything you post even if you think you are acting in a private matter. The internet is not as secure as one might think. Even the best-kept secrets are open books on social media sites.
Have a family law matter that is causing you distress? Samuel J. Stoia has extensive experience in this area of the law. Contact the office to set up an appointment to establish your course of action.