26 Feb Social Media & Divorce – A Lot to Dislike
We don’t like to scare our clients, but sometimes hard truth wakes us up. Think your social media world is private just because you’ve unfriended your estranged spouse? Think again.
If you find yourself in the midst of divorce or custody litigation, anything you post online can and will be used against you. Never forget that we never really have full control of who sees potentially-damaging posts. Even if you feel you’ve got things all locked down, security-wise, that smoking gun is only a friend-of-a-friend’s screenshot away. Instagram photos from that New Year’s Eve party where you had one-too-many; your Match.com profile which clearly plays up your party-girl side over your image as full-time devoted mother; Foursquare check-ins every time you go out for another night with the boys – any of these seemingly-innocent posts among friends can show up later as electronic red flags used to attempt to prove you an unfit parent. Similarly, while negotiating property division, Facebook photos of that latest extravagant purchase can come back to bite you in the wallet. One of the truly unfortunate things about divorce is the way those old “couple friends” you shared tend to take sides. Sadly, spies for your future ex may be lurking on your own list of Friends.
According to the American Bar Association, “Social media pose problems in the litigation process from the first time lawyers meet with clients until after judgment is rendered.” Kentucky courts have decided that social media can be obtained by the other side for use at trial, because there is no real expectation of privacy, and information gleaned there can be quite relevant.
What should you do? We advise that you withdraw altogether from your online world during litigation. Deleting old posts and accounts can result in sanctions from the court for destroying evidence, so DO NOT social media posts. Simply lay low electronically. Refrain from any public negativity, spending, or partying where social media could be etching your comments into history. Family Lawyer Magazine reminds us that “there is no venting, no party, no opinion, no activity where you are undertaking risk or expense, no pictures of you, or your friends that look happy, sad or mad that cannot be distorted by a good lawyer.”
It will be worth it in the long run to play it safe. You can celebrate the end of one of life’s most challenging periods by logging back on to all your favorite yummy-meal-posting, date-finding, life-celebrating websites. After the litigation is over. Tweet away!!