Texting and social media NJ family law
By Kalavruzos, Mumola and Hartman (KMH) LLC.
Does anyone even remember what it was like to write an angry letter? Not send an angry email, dash off a fuming text, or send a seething message over Facebook, but actually sit down, consider what you’re about to write, and compose an angry letter?
Seems like a relic of a forgotten age, truthfully.
But it did have one distinct advantage: If you were going to write something, you had to take time to do it. You had to think about it. You had to physically write it, find an envelope, put a stamp on it. It took some doing, and all the while, it allowed you the opportunity to stop writing this strongly-worded missive.
Consider: You’re going through a divorce, maybe a custody battle. You’ve got some choice words for the person on the other side. You’re steamed and can’t take it anymore. So you … write a letter, send it out? Maybe. But probably not. You’d think twice, and realize whatever you write might end up being used against you.
Today, though? All too easy to fire off a message you’re going to regret. A few taps on your smartphone and three seconds later, you’ve given your opposition smoking gun-type material to present to the judge.
“One text can sink your case,” said Michael Lento, a KMHL partner specializing in family law. “One email sent in a heated moment could do you in.”
In short: Quit sending electronic messages that could come back and bite you later.
“Before you hit ‘send,’ ask yourself if you’d be OK with third parties reading this,” Lento said. “Specifically, a lawyer for the other side or a judge.”
And just because you hit ‘delete’ on your end doesn’t mean the electronic message vanishes forever. The recipient would have a copy, of course, and even the most innocent electronic transmissions can put you on the defensive.
And it’s not just what you write.
“You need to be careful about what pictures you share,” Lento said. “For instance, if you’re involved in a custody case and post a beautiful picture of your daughter and there’s empty beer bottles in the background, this can be used against you. In can be inferred there’s an alcohol issue in your home. Maybe those bottles are 20 years old and you use them as vases, but now it’s a battle you don’t need.”
Lento advises people to put themselves on the other side.
“Before you post or send anything, consider how it might look,” he said. “Consider if you would use this in court if you were given it. Consider the angles. Most of all, consider not sending or posting it.”