There is an old saying, “Silence is golden.” There is also a line from the Godfather , “Santino, never let anyone outside the family know what you’re thinking.” I am probably quoting the line wrong, but often quote it to my clients. As a Denver area divorce attorney and a great fan of gangster movies, I often advise my clients to act like gangsters or Goodfellas in terms of being very cautious about what they say and trusting only those closest to them with their thoughts. Though this may sound a little paranoid, it is great advice for people going through a divorce or custody case.
I was in court a couple of days ago on a restraining order matter, feeling ever so sneaky at the fact that I had multiple very damaging recordings of the other parent saying horrific things. I was able to use the recordings in a surprise manner in the courtroom and was on top of the world over the fact that I had likely made the case for my client. My client had recorded his or her significant other in a rant that came back to bite that person on the rear end. No more than half an hour later, the other attorney pulled out his own recording, perhaps more damaging to my client than ours to his. In both instances, both parties engaged in horrible verbal behavior, spewing out many of the proverbial “no-no’s” in any battle regarding kids. In both instances, neither party knew he or she was being recorded by the other.
These days, people should always presume, whether in person or on the phone, that they may be being recorded. If a party to a family law case gets in the practice of watching what he or she says with every breath, ie: thinking like a gangster (or a lawyer), he or she may prevent tons of legal problems and heartache down the road.
Another area in which people all too often let loose lips sink ships is e-mail and internet postings. I have used people’s own My-Space or Facebook postings against them. For example, one woman posted how she gave her very young child caffeinated soda before the child went to dad, “just so he would get hyper and act up.” This was one of several cyberspace errors that cost her her visitation. I have seen, and used as evidence, profanity laden, ugly e-mails against their authors numerous times. I have seen people pose as fake potential internet suitors, getting the unsuspecting person to open up to someone who doesn’t even exist with all kinds of damaging personal details which may have a damaging legal impact. Many cell phones will even allow you to convert texts to e-mail format and send them right off to your attorney, who will be very eager to get them.
If you are fighting about kids, property, child support, or anything in general with your spouse or significant other, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. You can wreck your whole divorce case with a few stupid words. Before you click “send” on that e-mail, change your 4 letter words to 5’s. You may think your night of partying or how big an a@*&sshol*** your ex is is worthy for all the world to see on the world wide web. Your ex’s attorney certainly will.
There are too many ways for your words to be used against you today in a divorce or custody case. Choose them carefully.