Social media missteps during divorceRecently on our legal forum a user asked, "I am in the middle of a messy divorce. I know that I need to be careful about what I post on social media. Can you give me some concrete steps to follow so I don't get in trouble during my divorce?"
Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn have revolutionized the way we interact with other people. Who doesn't want to share personal and professional news with their friends? Unfortunately, information can be misconstrued and when we're hurt and angry we may turn what we thought were private messages and pictures into public ones.
So before you post anything- and many divorce lawyers will tell you that you should deactivate all of your social networking accounts during your divorce- it's important that you understand how information you share can be used against you in a divorce.
Understanding Social Media and divorce
- Information shared online can be used as evidence in court.
The first thing any divorcing couple should know is that information they share online, including text messages, emails, and social media posts, can be requested by the court through a subpoena. Also, it's important to note that if any statements you make online contradict information you provide in court, this could be evidence that you lied- which is a crime.
Additionally, during the discovery process your spouse's lawyer may also request copies of information you posted online in the past. For example, your Facebook history may be requested and reviewed to determine if you have cheated on your spouse, you made disparaging remarks about your spouse, or there is any indication that you may be an unfit parent.
- Information you post online is never really gone.
It's a mantra we tell our kids but maybe forget ourselves when we are going through a divorce: Never post anything that you could not share with anyone, including your grandmother. Just because you deleted it or you think it was only visible for a few seconds through a social media source such as Snapchat does not mean that the information can never be retrieved.
In fact, just because you thing you have deleted something does not mean that someone has not taken a screenshot of your page or that a cached version cannot be retrieved.
- Someone is always watching you.
Even if you have made your settings private and unfriended anyone who may not be sympathetic to your situation, it's likely that someone is watching you. It could be a friend of a friend or anyone else who has access to your account. And as we mentioned above, any information you share, even with your closest friends, can be subpoenaed by the court.
- It's hard not to overshare.
Regardless of how strong you think you might be, it's hard to control certain urges to post content online. Pictures are also worth a thousand words. In fact, one scandalous picture of you flirting with another man may easily be misconstrued in court. Add to that a few reckless "friends" who also have difficulty not posting unflattering posts or pictures of you and it's easy to see how social media posts can be detrimental to your divorce case.
If you are going through divorce talk to your divorce lawyer about whether or not you should delete or deactivate your account. Don't take any action prior to discussing your case with a divorce lawyer, but if you do decide not to deactivate your account at the very least you should consider unfriending your spouse, unfriending their friends, and changing your account settings to private.