Social Media Do's and Don'ts During Divorce
Exercise Caution on Social Media
When it comes to social media activity, always assume your ex-partner and their attorney will see everything you do online and scrutinize it for a way to weaponize it against you in court. A recent study found that “81% of attorneys discover social networking evidence worth presenting in court”.
Social media posts and other activity can be evidence used against you, especially if it contradicts what you have claimed in testimony, separation agreements, motions, and other legal filings. For example, bragging about financial prosperity, or posting about expensive purchases or trips can undermine arguments regarding an inability to pay child support or alimony. Behavior that could be viewed in a negative light, like drunk party photos when you had visitation, can affect a court’s opinion regarding your character and fitness as a parent.
- Beef up your privacy settings and change your password if there is a chance your ex-partner has it, or could easily guess it.
- Reduce your activity on social media. Some lawyers say it is best to stop using it completely.
- Stop and think before posting anything. Even if it seems innocuous, an opposing lawyer may be able to use it against you in some way.
- Avoid writing anything sensitive about your case, whether it is on social media or in texts and emails.
- If you are on speaking terms with your ex-partner, you might want to discuss if, when, and how the break-up is revealed online or relationship status is changed.
- Beware of your audience: Privacy controls are often complex and can be circumvented. For example, a mutual friend could post information or “like” a post involving you, which your ex then sees. Otherwise, they might have loose privacy settings that allow anyone to see the information.
- Bashing your ex-partner, their lawyer, or the judge involved in your case. This can reflect poorly on your ability to control your anger and might even alienate friends and family. Avoiding this is especially important where older children might read your comments.
- Passive-aggressive posts: these can increase tension and animosity between you and your ex. In turn, these types of posts can affect your ability to cooperate during mediation, reach agreements, and make decisions together, which is especially important if you have minor children.
- Oversharing: this is always a bad idea, but especially during litigation. Keep in mind social media content is evidence that can be used to demonstrate your habits and lifestyle.
- Don’t use an alias (or “burner account”) to let loose online. One tiny slip-up in your privacy settings, like failing to disable people’s ability to search for you on the site by your email or phone number, can reveal your identity. There is also a chance you accidentally reveal personal information that can be tied to you or post from the wrong account.
- Posting about a new romantic partner. For states where there are fault grounds for adultery, having a sexual relationship with a third party before your divorce has been finalized is considered adultery. Further, if your posts or pictures portray a new partner in a potentially negative light, there can be implications for child custody. What you see as a funny video of your carefree partner could be used by your ex’s lawyer to show how you are exposing your children to risky behavior.
- Create an online dating profile before divorced is finalized. Users frequently exaggerate in their profiles, and any content can be used against you if it contradicts your court filings and/or testimony.
- If your ex-partner bashes you online, or posts inappropriate information, screen capture it (in case they try to erase it later) and inform your lawyer. DO NOT engage them or retaliate online.
Once your divorce case begins, you cannot scrub your account and delete posts because this is often considered destruction of evidence. If you end up posting something online that you regret — contact your attorney. They might tell you to simply beef up your privacy settings to limit the audience, or take other mitigating action depending on the circumstances.
If your online persona seems to contradict the one you present during litigation, you can appear deceptive and untrustworthy. As social media’s popularity has grown, lawyers (and courts) have become more tech-savvy. As a result, it is almost guaranteed that your ex and their lawyer are combing through your social media accounts, posts, and activity for litigation-worthy material. Use an abundance of caution to avoid having your social media activity used against you in court.
Consulting an Experienced Attorney
For years, Bethany G. Shechtel, Esquire has guided her clients through the divorce process and one of the most difficult times in their lives. To learn more about divorce, contact BGS Law, LLC.
Divorce Magazine – https://www.divorcemag.com/blog/how-social-media-can-affect-divorce-proceedings/ and https://www.divorcemag.com/blog/how-social-media-posts-are-used-as-evidence-in-divorce-and-family-law-cases/
Huffington Post – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/a-look-at-how-social-medi_n_10633940
The National Law Review – https://www.natlawreview.com/article/family-law-social-media-evidence-divorce-cases