“You Can’t Fix Stupid” – The Effects of Social Media and Family Law
I was watching the Today show and viewed a story about Whitney Beall, a twenty-three year old woman from Lakeland, Florida, who was arrested for drunk driving after several people witnessed her “antics” on Periscope, a live-steaming social media site. During her “twenty minutes of fame,” Ms. Beall can be witnessed slurring her speech, driving over a curb, and fully admitting to driving her car while intoxicated. The story went on to explain how the police used her Periscope video, after several viewers called 911 to report her, to pinpoint her location. Within twenty minutes of downloading her video, law enforcement had her pulled over and was administering sobriety tests, which she failed and resulted in her DUI charge. After reviewing her video, while sober, Ms. Beall stated to NBC affiliate WFLA that she had “learned her lesson and what happened was a big mistake.”
Ms. Beall’s comments, after the fact, are not unusual when it comes to social media postings. In fact, the story made me think of the many times I have had to have discussions with my family law clients about the negative effects their social media postings were having on their pending domestic law cases. For example, two factors the court must review when determining whether alimony is warranted in a divorce action is whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs and whether there was any marital misconduct occurring during the marriage. Therefore, Wife posting of her most recent luxury vacation, with her long-time paramour to Europe, with pictures of her using her credit card during an extensive shopping spree at Harrods, will do absolutely nothing to promote her argument that she requires lifetime alimony from Husband to meet her reasonable needs. Likewise, Father’s postings on Facebook of his recent 2:00 a.m. “outing” to the local bar to “down shots” on his scheduled custody overnight, will not advance his position for more custody time with his children.
Everyone wants to keep their friends and family informed about events occurring in their lives, sometimes even up to the very second they are occurring. This has become so easy to do with the invention of Twitter, Facebook, and live streaming video accounts. Unfortunately, once the post is made, the images, words, and meanings behind them cease to remain private and can be used against the posting party. As such, it is very important to remember exactly what you are sharing, with whom you are sharing it, and what outcome, if any, such a posting will receive not only with your family and friends, but with the community at large. For remember, when you are making posts and videos, not only are your friends and family watching, but also law enforcement, and maybe, just maybe, a family law attorney!