Social Media Mindfulness: Think before you post!
My colleague, Nancy Zalusky Berg, once told me, “You never truly know someone until you go through a divorce with them.” Suddenly—under the pressure of pending divorce proceedings, mediations, and custody evaluations—the person you had vowed to love until death do you part is unrecognizable.
As the acrimony builds, some people turn to sharing their stories publicly. Because attorneys tend to limit the information presented to the Court, it is natural that one of the persons (if not both) may feel like they have not been allowed to tell their story, that they have been prevented from being heard. Queue social media platforms for the storytelling.
It is not uncommon to see a GoFundMe page focused on financing a custody fight, a blog series about the court systems, or Facebook rants about a divorce proceeding that did not go favorably. This type of behavior typically prompts the disparaged person to seek an order from the Court prohibiting the disparaging person from posting disparaging remarks about them or the divorce on social media. These requests are frequently granted.
On May 9, 2020, the New York Times ran a story about a recent case from Massachusetts dealing with this exact issue. The parties in the midst of a divorce proceeding were prohibited from posting disparaging remarks about each other on social media until their son reached the age of 14 years old. The Judge specifically prohibited the parties from using specific expletives to describe each other and posting photos of their son in inappropriate poses. The Court placed this order on hold to be reviewed on constitutional grounds. In a landmark decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found this order to be unconstitutional. You can read the full decision here.
In Minnesota, in a final stipulated order, it is common practice amongst family law attorneys to include a clause that prohibits either parent from making disparaging remarks to the children about the other parent. The courts also include such a clause in their orders. Whether by stipulation or an order by the Court, the “non-disparagement” clause is typically limited to comments made by the parents to the child.
But even if there is nothing in your final order prohibiting you from sharing your story and your feelings about your ex-spouse or co-parent on social media, should you really do it? The answer is NO. Will it feel good to blast him/her? Sure. Will it feel liberating to let all your friends and followers know “the Truth?” Absolutely, but the euphoria won’t last, and neither will some of your friendships. Will it solve any problems? Not one bit, but it will sure create some new ones.
Ruta Johnsen is an attorney at Nancy Zalusky Berg, LLC. Ruta is a devoted advocate for her clients and their children. Ruta’s practice includes areas of marriage dissolution, custody and parenting time matters, child support, paternity, spousal maintenance, international family law, child in need of protection and services, termination of parental rights proceedings, and appeals.
Ruta’s background in child protection and juvenile justice gives her a distinctive perspective in working with families going through a variety of family transitions such as dissolution, custody disputes and child protection proceedings. Ruta thoroughly enjoys working with Nancy on International family law matters such as international child abductions.
Ruta was born and raised in Lithuania, and as such, has first-hand understanding of the unique and complex issues of foreign nationals. Ruta graduated from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law where she was a recipient of the Student Award of Merit. She is admitted to practice in the state of Minnesota and Federal District Court, District of Minnesota.
Outside of the office, Ruta enjoys traveling, her dog, and spending time with her family and friends.
NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.
Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.