Like, Share, Delete? How to Safely Navigate Social Media During Divorce

For better or worse, social media evidence plays a role in the majority of the cases our divorce lawyers handle every day. If you’re planning to divorce, it’s essential to understand how social media could affect the outcome of your divorce and follow best practices for managing social accounts. Deleting social media accounts and posts is a big no-no One of the first pieces of advice we give clients is DO NOT delete any of their social media accounts, posts, messages, conversations or comments. It’s true, anything you say and do on social media could be held against you. However, deleting accounts or posts that don’t represent you in a positive light is not a good idea, because a judge could find that you destroyed evidence, which is illegal. Just because you delete something, doesn’t mean the opposing party or his or her counsel didn’t find that evidence earlier and preserve a screen grab. Claiming that such evidence doesn’t exist, then having it revealed by your spouse’s attorney could harm your case. Judges don’t look favorably upon people who lie. Live your life like you’re being watched … Because the world IS watching. During a divorce, it’s best to assume that everything you post, message, share and like on social media will be scrutinized by your spouse’s attorney and your judge. While it’s typically best to avoid engaging with social media during a divorce, if you must post, post with care. Only share photos, videos or comments that are positive, such as a family outing or your child performing in a school play. At the same time, don’t think that you can just fake “nice” on social media either. Remember, smartphones are everywhere and someone could capture your bad behavior at anytime – even as you walk away from your child’s baseball game, five minutes after you posted that you were there. Learn how to prevent the cloud from scuttling your divorce in this helpful post. Don’t underestimate the power of social media as evidence Judges in the family courts take social media evidence very seriously and some are even intrigued by it. Video evidence can be especially compelling, because, depending on the content, it is typically more difficult to dispute than a photograph. Social media evidence can make or break your case; so don’t take it lightly. Talk with children about their social media habits While you may not want to stop your kids from using Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook completely, do have a conversation with them regarding what they should and shouldn’t post, like, message and share. It’s also helpful to explain to children that what they post may have consequences. Learn more about the pitfalls of technology during divorce and child custody disputes in this past post. For safety purposes, disable GPS or location access in social media apps Many social media apps allow you to tag your location or even assign a location to your post automatically. If you’re afraid your spouse could harm you or your children, it’s vital to take precautions to keep your location private. Check the settings for all social media apps on all of your digital devices – phones, tablets, laptops – and turn off each app’s access to your location. If you don’t know how, visit the store or service provider where you purchased the device and ask for help. Turn to your divorce attorney for additional guidance Social media apps and capabilities change practically every day, which means how social media factors into divorce cases continues to evolve. Since reputable divorce lawyers monitor social media’s influence on divorce...

read more

Parting Ways? Get in Gear with Our 10-Step Divorce Checklist

If you have decided to file for divorce or your spouse has already filed, taking time to organize your thoughts and plan next steps is essential. As with any big challenge, a checklist can set the wheels in motion and keep you on track. To help prepare, the Connatser Family Law team has created a handy divorce checklist to guide you. 10-Step Divorce Checklist Step 1: Organize financial records and pull credit reports. It’s important to analyze what assets and debts are at stake during a divorce. Key financial records to track down include: Bank accounts. 401ks, IRAs (individual retirement accounts), pensions and other retirement accounts. Investment accounts. Trust accounts. Stock portfolios. Wills Safe deposit boxes. Insurance policies (auto, home, health, life, etc.). W2s and other tax documents. Logins and passwords for financial accounts. It can also be helpful for both spouses to pull their credit reports to make sure all outstanding debts (credit cards, medical bills, auto loans, etc.) are taken into account. Step 2: Hire a divorce attorney. This step may sound obvious, but it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your divorce lawyer is the key person who will help formulate a divorce strategy to align with your goals. Interviewing multiple attorneys prior to hiring one can help ensure attorney and client are on the same page. Check out Aubrey’s recent post, Wealthy and Getting Divorced? 6 Essential Tips for Hiring a Divorce Attorney, for additional insight. Step 3: Set the tone early on. If your goal is to have an amicable divorce, then you should communicate that intention from the get-go. When possible, it’s typically best to personally ask your spouse for a divorce as opposed to serving him or her with papers first. During the conversation, explain that you want to settle the divorce amicably, avoid high legal fees and treat each other fairly. Hearing these sentiments can help put your spouse’s mind at ease and get the process off to an amicable start. If you fear for your and/or your children’s safety, take precautions. Abby provides advice in this recent post: How to Leave an Abusive Relationship and Protect Your Kids. Step 4: Decide how and when to tell the children. Do so with the other parent if possible. Divorce can be especially hard on children. In fact, some kids even believe they are at fault for their parents’ divorce. Psychotherapist Linda Solomon, LPC, LCDC, LMFT shares invaluable advice here: Break the News with Care: How to Tell Kids You’re Getting Divorced. Step 5: Sort out living arrangements and budgetary details. Obviously, you need to figure out where each spouse (and children if you have them) will live. Who stays in the family home and for how long? Will you take turns or will someone move to an apartment or live with their parents? It typically proves beneficial to establish a budget, including living expenses and any other financial obligations, during the early stages of a divorce. Christine explains how living arrangements and other issues related to divorce are handled in her post: Calling It Quits? The Top 12 Things You Need to Know About Divorce in Texas. Step 6: Change passwords and create a new email account. While you can’t delete email, text, phone or social media accounts – such spoliation of evidence is illegal – you can change passwords on accounts that belong exclusively to you. This step is critical because it can deter your spouse from accessing those accounts and your private information – especially correspondence related to the divorce with your lawyer or other trusted professionals. Step 7: Untangle...

read more

Lend a Hand: 5 Big and Small Ways to Help Victims of Domestic Violence Now

During the time it takes you to read this story, 30 women will be assaulted during acts of domestic violence. On behalf of those moms, aunts, sisters, daughters, cousins, friends and neighbors – and their children – Connatser Family Law asked Jan Langbein, CEO at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support in Dallas, what we all can do to make a difference. When we spoke to Langbein, the shootings of a domestic violence victim and her eight friends (one who survived) in Plano, Texas were fresh in her mind. “Our community is still reeling from the mass homicide in Plano during a football watching party. The woman did exactly what we tell victims of domestic violence to do – which is get out of an abusive relationship and surround yourself with friends. She had no idea how much danger she was in, and her friends certainly didn’t either,” Langbein says. Ready to “get out?” Here’s information on how to leave an abusive relationship and protect your kids. In order to make a difference, Langbein says, “We all have a responsibility to know the signs of domestic violence long before a tragedy like the one in Plano ever happens.” Common signs, actions or traits of someone who is likely to be an abuser: Hyper-vigilant, such as needing to know where his partner is every moment of the day. Extremely jealous. Transfers blame for problems he contributed to. Aggressive with wait staff or other service professionals. Does or says things that make your hair stand up on end. Common signs, actions or traits of a victim of abuse: Unexplained bruises. Days missed from work that seem excessive or unexplainable. Change in patterns or behavior, such as not going out as much. Limiting or halting communications with family and friends. People need to be more proactive about stepping up when something seems off or intuition tells them a woman or child may be in peril. Langbein recently experienced this situation at the DFW Airport. As she explains, “I was waiting at the gate for my flight to board, and a man was really going off on his wife and yelling at her. My gut told me she was at serious risk for getting hurt. When she got up to go to the bathroom, I followed her in and gave her my business card – I didn’t do it in front of him.” Langbein strongly believes it’s our responsibility as human beings to say something if we see something, even when it feels uncomfortable. “We need to step up long before a woman starts thinking about leaving her abuser or entering a shelter. This requires a change in mindset, where we acknowledge that everyone needs to play a part in ending domestic violence. We also need to do so 365 days a year, not just the 31 days during Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” Langbein says. Five ways you can help – before, during and after a victim of domestic violence seeks help   No. 1: Change your mindset and take responsibility. According to Langbein, “Domestic violence happens everywhere. After the Plano shooting, I heard people say, ‘I can’t believe it happened in Plano.’ That’s where the problem resides. You can’t be surprised if it happens down the street because it happens everywhere. It’s not an economic thing, and it’s not an education thing. It’s about power and control.” When you see something, say something.   No. 2: Know what resources are available in your community. Don’t feel like you have to “fix things” for that person. Even if you can’t provide financial support or...

read more

Wealthy and Getting Divorced? 6 Essential Tips for Hiring a Divorce Attorney

Divorce attorneys vary greatly when it comes to personality, level of experience, areas of expertise and more. In the following post, Dallas divorce attorney Aubrey Connatser offers advice for wealthy individuals on how to hire a divorce attorney when sizeable assets and custody of children are at stake. Divorce is rarely easy, regardless of income level. However, how an affluent person approaches divorce and the divorce attorney he or she chooses can have a significant impact on the outcome of their divorce case. If you are wealthy and plan to divorce, consider the following tips to find a divorce attorney whose values align with yours, and who has the capabilities to meet your financial and child custody goals. No. 1: Ask trusted advisors to recommend a good divorce attorney. One of the best ways to begin your search for a divorce attorney is to ask a trusted attorney you already work with to make a recommendation. For example, a lawyer who is known and trusted by your family or who handles legal concerns for your family business is typically a good resource. People in the legal community tend to be the ones who know who the good divorce lawyers are in the cities and counties where they practice. Also, if you know someone who has (1) gone through a divorce, (2) been similarly situated, (3) had a good experience with their lawyer, they can be another great resource. What a lot of clients tell me when we meet for the first time is, “I got your name from so-and-so, and then when I asked someone else who they would recommend, your name came up again. So that made me think you must be someone I want to talk to or hire.” If you keep hearing the same attorney’s name popping up, that’s a good way to narrow down your search. Looking for more helpful tips? Check out these 18 helpful tools in our Ultimate Divorce Toolkit. No. 2: Interview more than one divorce lawyer. I always recommend people interview more than one divorce attorney, because you want to hire a lawyer whose experience and approach to divorce aligns with your goals. It’s also important to meet face-to-face, because if you like how the attorney represents himself or herself in person, chances are good that the judge will like them too. The in-person meeting allows you to get a good feel for the attorney, determine whether the two of you are compatible and find out if you share the same ethics, morals and values. No. 3: Seek out an attorney who will be diligent about maintaining your privacy. Affluent parties who want to stay out of the spotlight shouldn’t hire an attorney they see on the news with their divorce clients. This is especially true if any fame or notoriety is associated with either spouse. Instead, hire someone who is known to use discretion, maintain confidences and will be dedicated to maintaining privacy. No. 4: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the attorney. It’s important to find a lawyer who has business acumen and experience, because the wealthy tend to have more complicated assets. Some attorneys have more experience with complex property cases, while others are stronger on custody cases. Some lawyers are strong in both areas. Look for an attorney who has extensive experience in the issues present in your case. Get Aubrey’s insight on a landmark $1 billion divorce settlement in this past story on Big & Rich Texas Divorces. No. 5: Avoid hiring a solo practitioner. Solo practitioners typically don’t have the bandwidth to adequately address all...

read more

As a Presidential Candidate, Should Donald Trump’s Divorce Records Be Unsealed?

In August, Gannett Co. and The New York Times asked the New York Supreme Court to unseal the 1990 divorce records of Donald and Ivana Trump. About the same time, a Hennepin County District Court judge in Minneapolis approved a request by the Minneapolis Star Tribune to unseal the 2006 divorce records of the late, rock star Prince and his ex-wife Manuela Testolini. On September 22, 2016, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Frank Nervo refused to unseal the files – saying he has no power or business doing so. Since each state views privacy rights differently, we asked Dallas Divorce Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry to weigh in on how the unsealing of the Trump and Prince divorce records might play out in Texas. According to Christine, “In Texas, it is presumed that all court records are to be open to the public. What is different here from other states is Texas excludes documents filed in actions arising under the Family Code from the definition of court records. So it is difficult to unseal divorce records in Texas.” The only exception – to the exception – for unsealing divorce records in Texas is when a public official is involved. Divorce Records of Public Officials Could Be Unsealed in Texas In the case of a mayor, governor or someone who is running for public office (like Donald Trump), the court may consider unsealing his or her divorce records if the judge believes information in the sealed documents should be made available to the general public. As Christine explains, “For example, if a public official’s ex-spouse filed a protective order against him or her, a Texas judge may agree to unseal those divorce records if he or she believes the public has a right to know about those details.” According to the USA TODAY, The Trumps’ divorce was granted on the grounds of “cruel and inhumane treatment,” though the couple eventually agreed to a settlement. “Bottom line, it’s pretty hard to unseal divorce records in Texas, unless it’s a public official. Since Donald Trump is running for President, the press in Texas would have a decent chance of unsealing his divorce records if the Trumps’ divorce had been finalized here,” Christine says. It’s Easier for Celebrities to Keep Divorce Records Sealed in Texas With celebrities like Prince, the Texas family court is less likely to find that the public has a right to know what information is sealed in their divorce documents. However, it is important to ask your family law attorney to take the appropriate steps to keep your divorce records private. “The other thing that is unique in Texas is that an order sealing or unsealing records cannot be reconsidered if an interested third party had notice. So if you ask a judge to revise his or her position, and if the newspaper had notice of the hearing to begin with (2006 in the Prince-Testolini records), the newspaper’s request would likely be denied anyway,” says Christine. As a high-profile, Dallas divorce attorney, Christine regularly petitions the family court to seal her clients’ divorce records.  Typical language for a request to seal may be: The sealing of the records in this action will not have an adverse effect on the public health or safety, and the records do not involve matters that should be available to the general public. Texas Protects the Privacy of Parties to a Divorce – Especially Children “The state of Texas stands firm when it comes to protecting the privacy of people going through divorce and custody and child support modifications. If it’s in the best interest of the children involved to...

read more