Lessons and Takeaways From the Kanye v. Kim Divorce Saga
If you’ve been monitoring the news in the past few weeks, you’ve likely encountered at least one headline—even if just for a clickbait article—about recording artist Kanye West’s recent flurry of social media activity concerning his ongoing divorce from, and child custody dispute with, reality TV star Kim Kardashian. For those who have somehow managed to avoid the drama, suffice it to say that Kanye has been making occasionally cryptic and otherwise very direct statements on Instagram about his feelings toward Kim, their custodial arrangement and Kim’s new significant other, among other similar topics.
Regardless of your perspective on Kanye’s recent actions, it is abundantly clear that Kanye is not alone in electing to make public his feelings on his divorce proceeding or on his soon-to-be former spouse. There are numerous other celebrities who have decided to take a similar, public approach to their divorce, their child custody dispute and/or the termination of their marriage, in general.
Notably, however, this type of approach is not at all limited to the celebrity community. While celebrities clearly have wider-reaching public platforms, it is not at all uncommon for these same types of issues—in particular, overt public comments and/or social media activity about a soon-to-be-former spouse, an ongoing divorce or custody proceeding or a soon-to-be-former spouse’s new significant other—to arise in connection with non-celebrity divorces and/or custody disputes.
To this end, there are at least four worthwhile, general lessons and takeaways that the recent events in the Kanye v. Kim divorce saga can offer to normal, non-celebrity individuals who may be involved in a similar—albeit less public—situation. Each of these lessons are discussed in more detail throughout the remainder of article.
1. Be Thoughtful About What Gets Posted on Social Media or Is Otherwise Reduced to Writing
While this is a good principle to follow even for those not involved in a divorce, custody or other public legal proceeding, it’s especially important to keep in mind for those that are—or are likely to be—a party to such a lawsuit or dispute. As I mentioned in my prior article, Top 10 Tips to Prepare for the Divorce or Dissolution Process, relevant social media activity and written communications of a party are likely to become key evidence in connection with a divorce or child custody proceeding.
For parties, this reality can, understandably, feel like a no-win situation. In many circumstances, these types of posts or written communications may, in the moment, feel like the only way to right a perceived wrong or address the other side of the story in connection with a pending divorce or custody lawsuit. Yet, regardless of the rationale, these types of posts or communications can still have long-term, negative implications down the road for the posting party in connection with a divorce or custody case, and thus, ultimately, do more harm than good.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for these types of communications to grow legs of their own in connection with a divorce or custody case—potentially, even beyond the stated content of the post itself. For example, even seemingly innocuous social media activity—like documenting a recent wild night on the town, making a cryptic statement about current personal challenges or posting a song lyric about illegal substance usage—could end up being offered as evidence against the posting party in connection with a divorce or custody case. As a result, it’s best practice to err on the side of not posting, period. However, at an absolute minimum, it is essential that a party think very critically before posting or committing something to writing in these types of circumstances.
2. Be Sure To Preserve Any Evidence That Might Be Helpful to Your Case
If you are involved in a custody or divorce proceeding and are on the receiving end of written communications or social media activity that you believe may be helpful to your case, be sure to preserve the evidence. This can, most easily, be accomplished via dated screenshots or downloads of the content at issue. In essence, don’t assume that the content at issue will still be easily or readily available if or when it is needed.
Kanye’s recent Instagram posts provide a great example as to why this is the case. Specifically, Kanye’s posts seem to arrive in flurried batches, which are then deleted as quickly as they were posted. As Kanye’s recent actions highlight, frequently scrubbing a social media account of potentially problematic content is not an uncommon occurrence. While scrubbed content may be retrievable with some elbow grease and/or expert involvement, screenshots and downloads live forever—and may prove useful down the road in a custody or divorce lawsuit. As a result, it’s always best practice to preserve any such content at the first available opportunity.
3. Many Courts Will Issue Mutual Restraining Orders at the Inception of a Divorce Lawsuit
If you are already involved in a divorce proceeding and this type of situation is occurring, check to see if any Mutual Restraining Orders were issued by the court at the outset of the matter. At least in Ohio, many courts will issue Mutual Restraining Orders at the inception of a divorce lawsuit. These Court Orders are intended to prevent the parties to the proceeding from taking certain actions while the litigation is pending. For example, one of the orders that is often issued in connection with a court’s Mutual Restraining Orders is an order restraining both spouses from utilizing the internet or social media to threaten, harass or denigrate the other spouse. Most courts view this type of behavior as especially problematic when it occurs in the presence of or directly to any minor children of a marriage.
As a result, to the extent the court has issued Mutual Restraining Orders, and these types of circumstances are addressed therein, then it may be prudent to bring the problematic and potentially violative behavior to the attention of the court. Doing so may, at a minimum, get the behavior to stop and/or may otherwise be helpful to the overarching case, especially if there are minor children involved. To the extent that this type of situation is occurring, but the court did not issue Mutual Restraining Orders at the outset of the case, then it may be similarly prudent to request that such restraining orders are issued against the offending spouse for the same reasons.
4. There May Be Other Ways to Get Content Removed From the Public Domain
Depending on what type of information is being made public, there may be other remedies available to the subject of the posts in order to get the same removed from the public domain. For example, it is not uncommon for parties involved in a divorce or custody proceeding to punitively make public the other spouse’s personal information, financial information or private content. Sometimes, these posts are made anonymously. Depending on the content at issue and the location of where it is posted, there may be avenues available to have the content removed and, when made anonymously, the original source of the content located.
If you are experiencing these or any other types of issues in connection with your divorce or child custody case, you don’t need to go it alone. If you need guidance on divorce, dissolution or other domestic relations matters, please contact Janet Stewart Scalley at JS@kjk.com or another member of the KJK Family Law team by phone at (216) 696-8700.