Tag: Divorce and social media

Covid-19, Child Custody, and Good News on Coronavirus

Parenting is tough enough when you’re in quarantine. But for parents who are divorced and shuttle their kids between two households as part of a child custody arrangement, deciding how to proceed with quarantines related to the coronavirus can be even more challenging.

Child custody covid-19

A Virus Among Us

“Today” recently profiled parents in Florida about how they are coping. Rachelle Dunlevy, a mom of two from Indialantic, Florida, says since her ex-husband lives nearby, they have agreed to stick with their current custody schedule, for now. Megan O’Connor, whose daughter is about to turn three, has been divorced for almost a year, and says she and her ex-husband are doing the same.

“My ex is a public health professional, so he is aware of social distancing, but also of the importance of our daughter having access to both of her parents during such a fragile time. Currently, we are both in town so we are maintaining our current schedule. We’ve decided to do that because we view ourselves as a family unit — though we are no longer together romantically, our daughter is intrinsically a part of each parent.”

But what do parents do when there’s conflict over whether or not to pause a custody arrangement during the pandemic? When it comes to making decisions about coronavirus and custody, communication is key.

The first and foremost concern should be the health of your family. It is important to communicate respectfully and be cooperative with any schedule changes, even if it results in less parenting time for you and more parenting time for the other parent.

Understand that you and your co-parent may have different views about how to approach this pandemic and neither of you may be wrong or right, so it’s important to be calm. Your child is also navigating a pandemic and a change in their everyday routine and you do not want to add to their stress and anxiety — a united front between the parents is best.

The number one priority should always be the well-being of the children and the coronavirus doesn’t care about courts and agreement.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In Florida, the prevailing standard for determining “custody” is a concept call shared parental responsibility, or sole parental responsibility.

Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities. Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

Good News About Coronavirus

As new cases of SARS CoV-2 (aka Covid-19) Coronavirus are confirmed throughout the world and millions of people are being put into quarantine, there is some good news too.

Most people with COVID-19 recover. Estimates now suggest that 99% of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 will recover and some people have no symptoms at all.

Children seem to be infected less often and have milder disease. According to the CDC, the vast majority of infections so far have afflicted adults. And when kids are infected, they tend to have milder disease.

The number of new cases is falling where the outbreak began. During his speech declaring the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, the director-general of the WHO pointed out that “China and the Republic of Korea have significantly declining epidemics.” That’s a good thing and suggests that efforts to contain the spread of this infection can be successful.

We have the internet! We can practice social distancing and preserve our professional and social connections.

This a good test run for much more serious and deadly outbreaks such as the Spanish Flu and the Ebola virus. Our response to future pandemics should improve because of what we are doing now.

The coronavirus epidemic is a global problem for those infected and those trying to avoid it. But amid all the doom and gloom, there are some positive stories, positive messages and reasons to remain hopeful.

The Today article is here.

 

Your Social Media Divorce Farce

When your divorce becomes social media fodder because you yourself are posting things online about it, what are the risks? Lifestyle and mommy blogger Eva Amurri Martino – who has posted to her followers that she and her husband are going to “lovingly part ways as a couple” (aka divorce) – may find out the hard way.

Social Media Divorce

News Feed

Eva, the daughter of Susan Sarandon, and her husband who is a former soccer player, announced their split with simultaneous posts on both their Instagram and Twitter accounts. In the photo, they are beautiful and laughing on their porch with their two adorable young children, despite the somber message.

Eva is 23-weeks pregnant with the couple’s third child, making the beautiful laughing picture and self-described “lovingly parting ways” description seem like a total farce.

The couple also has been remodeling a home and both posted declarations of love on their anniversary less than a month ago. Her followers immediately began speculating what happened on various internet forums, and they have become tabloid fodder.

Florida Divorce and Social Media

Eva Amurri Martino’s decision to “lovingly part ways” and broadcast her divorce to the world is part of the recent phenomenon of the “divorce selfie” and other social media announcements.

I’ve written about the widespread use of social media in society, and how that impacts family court cases. Social media evidence is increasingly becoming important at trial – especially when it comes to authenticating exhibits in family court.

Some exhibits are so trustworthy they don’t even require a witness to authenticate. Evidence Rule 201 lists matters which a court must judicially notice, meaning a judge does not have discretion but to admit indisputable evidence.The list is short, and includes laws of the Congress and Florida Legislature; Florida statewide rules of court, rules of United States courts, and U.S. Supreme Court rules.

Rule 202 includes even more matters, but also provides judges leeway in deciding whether or not to take judicial notice. For example, the statute allows a court to take judicial notice of facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the court”, and facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be questioned.”

With evidence of foreign governments using social media to spread disinformation and propaganda, and the widespread use of fake social media accounts, you have to wonder whether the genuineness assumption of evidence in family court still stands.

Create a Post

Eva and Kyle’s divorce raises an interesting question: when your brand is your life, how do you post divorce information? Influencers usually handle this in three ways: They ignore it and “keep it off the feed,” they offer an unfiltered look at their hardship, or they go dark until the storm passes.

Eva has kept up her usual posts and aesthetic, but mixed in the realities of her new situation. Her activity over the past week features her usual glam, well-lit Instagrams, but with divorce talk sprinkled in. For example, she hosted a “slumber party” for her girlfriends, complete with makeup, pearls, and matching silk pajamas. She also has been posting family shots, now missing a member.

For his part, Kyle posted this absolutely heartbreaking post the other day. Something about how peppy and lovely it looks kind of kills me?

If you’re considering divorce — even if you plan to file for divorce online and expect it to go amicably — take some precautions. Lockdown privacy settings for example, and be cognizant that your posts could be used against you.

Even if things are moving forward in an amicable fashion, you don’t want to turn your divorce into a contested legal battle. That may include keeping your divorce off Facebook and Twitter. If you have children, consider an agreement that child-related social media posts are limited especially photos and posts that give insight into children’s personal lives.

Influencers like Eva, who have used their children to create a family brand, may have little choice but to make glowing comments such as “lovingly parting ways” while 6-months pregnant and in the middle of a remodeling project.

The Buzzfeed article is here.

 

Social Media, Family Law, and Russian Hacking

Hypothetically, if Vladimir Putin opened fake social media accounts in your name to ruin your family law custody case, what would happen? An unfortunate Florida woman, who was recently sentenced to five months in jail for a few posts on her Facebook page, found out the hard way.

Social Media Family Law

News Feed

The Father, Timothy Weiner, had been warned. The judge in his custody case ordered him to stop harassing his ex-wife on Facebook. The family court judge issued two orders to keep any information about the case off social media and prevent family members from publishing information about the custody action on social media.

“Neither parent,” Pasco Circuit judge Lauralee Westine wrote in her order after the September hearing, “shall disparage or threaten the other parent on social media.”

But a week later, a photo of his ex-wife surfaced on a father’s rights Facebook page called “Mothers who abuse kids.” Weiner hit the “like” button. Fast forward to this summer. The Father’s new wife, Jessie Weiner, who is not a party to his custody case, was not served with the order.

In one of Ms. Weiner’s Facebook posts, sensitive family court documents concerning her Husband’s child from his previous marriage were posted. Court records indicate that someone on Weiner’s Facebook even shared an old news article about when her husband was jailed over a Facebook post.

The uploaded Facebook documents had to do with the ongoing family law custody case between Weiner’s husband and his ex. The family judge was not amused, and took swift action. She entered an order directing Ms. Weiner to show cause why she should not be held in indirect criminal contempt for failing to obey her orders.

Ms. Weiner received the order to show up in court the day before the 4:30 p.m. hearing that had been scheduled. Her lawyer, whom she retained on the same day as the hearing, argued for dismissal, for the judge’s disqualification, and for a continuance.

“Next thing I know, I hear five months in the county jail. “No matter what I said, I was guilty.”

The family judge denied all of her motions, found Ms. Weiner guilty of indirect criminal contempt, and sentenced her to five months’ confinement in jail for contempt of court.

What if, as Ms. Weiner argued, the social media accounts were not authentic, i.e. she didn’t make the Facebook posts?

Florida Authenticity and Social Media

I’ve written about the widespread use of social media in society, and how that impacts family court cases. Especially when it comes to authenticating documents in family court.

Some exhibits are so trustworthy they don’t even require a witness to authenticate. Evidence Rule 201 lists matters which a court must judicially notice, meaning a judge does not have discretion but to admit indisputable evidence.

The list is short, and includes laws of the Congress and Florida Legislature; Florida statewide rules of court, rules of United States courts, and U.S. Supreme Court rules.

Rule 202 includes even more matters, but also provides judges leeway in deciding whether or not to take judicial notice. For example, the statute allows a court to take judicial notice of facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the court”, and facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be questioned.”

But with the Russian election scandal, and the widespread use of fake social media accounts, you have to start to wonder whether the genuineness assumption of evidence in family court still stands.

Governments manipulate photographs. It is not unheard of for spouses to hack computers and borrow smartphones to impersonate their owners’ texts. Anyone can set up a Facebook page, email, Instagram, or twitter account.

The increasing use of electronic evidence at trial, and the ease with which it is impersonated and manipulated, pressures us to bolster foundational evidence more than ever. Unfortunately for Ms. Weiner, she was jailed before she could even challenge the evidence.

What’s on your mind?

The Second District Court of Appeals had no trouble quashing the contempt order and freeing Ms. Weiner . . . after she served a month in jail.

First, the order violated Ms. Weiner’s due process rights because she was not subject to or served with the court order that she was accused of disobeying.

Second, the order to show cause was never served on Ms. Weiner within a “reasonable time allowed for preparation of the defense,” as required by Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. Ms. Weiner’s name did not appear in the order’s service list, and it is undisputed that she received the order the day before the hearing and did not engage counsel until the morning of the hearing.

Finally, the trial judge should have disqualified herself because the contempt conduct involved disrespect and criticism of the judge.

This rule assures that a person cited for a contempt of court which involved a criticism of a judge, would not be tried before the judge who was the subject of the criticism.

The opinion is here.

 

Divorce & Social Media . . . in China!

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Friday, July 24, 2015.

With prosperity comes social problems. The divorce rate in China has risen along with the country’s new wealth. China’s divorce rate climbed by 3.9%, the 12th consecutive annual increase.

Forbes reports on what’s driving the increase. To learn more, they discussed the divorce problem with Liu Lin, a divorce lawyer at Beijing Shuangli Law Firm.

One big factor, he said, is the growing use of social media such as Alibaba-backed Weibo and Tencent’s WeChat. “Social media is a catalyst for divorce,” Liu said.

In the 1980s, divorces were mainly caused by liaisons at settings like dance halls and public squares. Social media is a catalyst for divorce. Through social media, people can get a better understanding of what kind of love they want, but that discovery often happens outside of their marriage.

For example, in the Fengtai District Court in Beijing, the wife had an affair with someone she met on QQ. They lived together and the marriage ended. In another case, a man met a woman through Weibo. He then left his home in Beijing to live with the woman in Hunan.

The one that has an affair usually initiates the divorce, no matter if it’s wife or husband. Normally, assets are split 50-50, with consideration of the wife’s interest as stipulated under relevant law.

Whether one side or the other had an affair isn’t considered in the split of assets. Even though property is split by half, women are disadvantaged in the proceedings.

In China, men’s capacity to earn is much greater than women’s, and they have a lot of private assets that are not known to the wife. Usually, what women win in court is only part a husband’s true assets.

I wrote an article about the impact of social media on divorces in the Florida Bar Commentator. Personal details, they type of evidence we find on social media sites, are important.

Consider the following example:

Husband denies anger management issues but posts on Facebook . . . : “If you have the balls to get in my face, I’ll kick your ass into submission.”

Or this:

Mom denies in court that she smokes marijuana but posts partying, pot-smoking photos of herself on Facebook.

Going through a divorce causes you to be placed under a magnifying glass. If you post things on social media sites that could help your estranged spouse’s case, an attorney will likely make use of that as evidence.

The Forbes article is available here.