Wishing a Happy Passover to all of our friends who celebrate the holiday. May you find joy in the celebration, whether you are celebrating new traditions or old ones, with family or friends.
Tom returned from a contentious mediation session with his soon to be ex-wife Marta regarding custody of their two boys. Angry and frustrated, Tom vented to his “friends” on Facebook and tweeted negative comments about Marta. A week later he posted pictures of his new girlfriend and his boys despite an agreement with Marta that they would not post pictures of their children on social media. Mediation broke down, in large part because Marta no longer trusted Tom to keep his word. Through mutual friends and discovery, Marta was able to obtain Tom’s social media postings and used them as evidence during their trial.
It may seem like common sense, but if you are thinking about divorce, going through a divorce, or are divorced with minor children, you need to think twice before posting or tweeting on social media. Hess Family Law recommends suspending all use of any social media during the divorce process.
If you are not willing to suspend your social media usage, then at least take precautions when using social media by checking your privacy settings and limiting the people you don’t know from viewing your posts.
You should also limit what you post. If you bad mouth your spouse not only does it make it more difficult to reach an amicable agreement but it makes it more difficult to co-parent and you might lose the ability to share joint custody. One way to determine if a post or tweet should be sent is whether or not you would want your children to see it. If the answer is no, don’t post or tweet it.
Arguing your case on social media will not win your case and could damage it. While your post that highlights why you should have custody and why your spouse should not may garner you sympathy from your friends, it may also backfire if brought to your spouse’s or the court’s attention.
If your case is litigated, the Judge will look at objective and subjective factors when making a determination. Negative comments made on social media may not weigh in your favor because they may show poor judgment and poor decision making abilities, two qualities that are important for parenting and co-parenting. You may also appear as a bully, which will not weigh in your favor.
Ask yourself if your spouse could misinterpret a post. While it may seem harmless to you, will they feel attacked or find a way to use it against you? Also, resist the urge to check in or post every time you go out. Again, your spouse can use this as evidence against you.
If you have an agreement to not post pictures of your children on social media without your spouse’s consent, don’t do it. Violating the terms of an agreement, even if it seems minor to you, could have serious consequences. If your spouse or the court have evidence that you don’t follow court orders, or that you don’t keep your word, then your spouse may be awarded more of the responsibility because you are not reliable or trustworthy, or credible.
If you are concerned that your spouse may use your social media postings against you, the best thing you can do is take a break from social media while your divorce is pending. If this is not possible, then heed the advice above to minimize any negative impact your social media posts or tweets may have on the outcome of your case.
What happens if you file for divorce and properly serve the divorce papers on your spouse, but your spouse does not file a response with the Court within the required time allowed?
You are not stuck, you can still proceed to get divorced in the State of Maryland. You must file with the court a Request for An Order of Default, file an affidavit and proof stating that your spouse is not currenting serving in the armed forces. The proof can be obtained by visting the Department of Defense Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) website, and print out your search results. Once the court issues the default you can then request a hearing for divorce and the process can proceed without your spouse. What happens if your spouse suddenly decides to respond and participate? The default is likely to be set aside and the case will proceed with both parties participating. The issues, especially custody and visitation, are so important that Judges don't like to proceed in divorce cases without hearing evidence from both spouses.
There are many reasons why people do not initialy respond to the divorce papers. Sometimes it is denial of the divorce, sometimes it is financial inability to hire a lawyer or figure out how to file without a lawyer, sometimes it is because a spouse is hoping that the matters can be resolved outside of court, with or without the use of an attorney or mediator.
People Magazine reports that although Gwenyth Paltrow filed for divorce on April 20, 2015 her husband, Chris Martin, did not file a response with the Court. Ms. Paltrow now has the option to request that the court proceed on a default judgment. In all likelihood this is a situation where Mr. Martin and/or Ms. Paltrow want to resolve their issues outside of court with their lawyers, mediators and business managers.