Nowadays, it is routine to hop on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to record your thoughts, views, or even just a description of what you had for dinner. We carefully cultivate our social media personas to reflect the best version of ourselves. And then, secretly, we compare our reality against lives of friends on social media networks who are doing the exact same thing. But in-the-midst of a separation or divorce, social media use can cause you more grief than satisfaction when your public information is used to keep proverbial tabs on one another. No matter what kind of family-related dispute you are involved in, it is important to remember that your online presence could be scrutinized by the court. Because once you hit the send, post, or tweet button, it is permanently backed up and accessible to your spouse and their attorney.
According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of divorce attorneys say they’ve seen an uptick in the number of recent cases where social media evidence was used – with Facebook being cited as the primary culprit. In addition,
- 92% of AAML divorce attorneys cited an increase in cases using evidence taken from smart phones during the past three years.
- In the same survey, 94% noted an increase in text message evidence.
If you are involved in a family related dispute, it is time to consider how you currently use social media and if you need to make any adjustments. However, you should not have to give up an important connection to friends, family, and colleagues due to a separation or divorce.
Consider pausing your accounts. Many platforms offer you a way to suspend the use of your account for a period-of-time. This can enable you to take your accounts offline without deleting anything. People are so accustomed to communicating through social media that they don’t consider the permanency of the exchanges.
Refrain from posting information. You should refrain from posting anything new during the divorce proceedings. Before you brag about your latest retail-therapy purchase or post those wild #singlelife photos, think about how it might affect your settlement or custody agreement. The internet is forever, so save the scandalous details for your closet friends and keep your online profile as drama-free as possible. This can be the best way to keep up with friends and family without posting any new information about yourself or your kids.
Do not delete anything: If you think there may be negative content on your social media posts that could hurt you in the divorce, you may be tempted to delete them. Do not do this without speaking with your divorce attorney first. Deleting your accounts or specific content within your accounts can lead to accusations that you are trying to get rid of important evidence. Take this opportunity to consult with your attorney to develop a social media strategy.
In divorce, both parties have a responsibility to provide full and frank disclosure; make sure your social media isn’t telling a different tale to the one you’re telling in court.
Unfortunately, though, we sometimes do this without thinking through all the potential consequences. Not every “friend” is a friend. Not every connection is an ally. And many times, a message you thought was private turns out to be anything but. Divorce is a highly stressful and emotional time, and social media can provide relief from the reality of your situation. If you use social media yourself, you need to exercise caution, discretion and excellent judgment.
Rethink privacy. Change your passwords on your accounts. Many spouses keep the usernames and passwords for various accounts in a mutually accessible place. Change passwords to any accounts that you now wish to keep private.
Avoid complaining about parental duties. If you post about how hard it will be to raise your children or tweet about a “crazy Friday night out at the bars” may seem harmless, but if you miss your child’s Saturday morning soccer game the following day, it may not help your case.
Remember, social media can be your friend or your enemy – it’s your choice. If you have questions about how social media might impact your family court case, contact an experienced family law attorney.
The information in this article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction. Please seek appropriate counsel for your own situation. The inclusion of links to outside resources is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended as an endorsement by this Firm.