If you are going through a divorce or even post divorce litigation (i.e. custody or modification of alimony and/or child support) the use of social media can have serious ramifications. It is important to evaluate one’s own use of social media as even what some may believe are innocent posts can have unforeseen consequences.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social media websites can be fun and useful. When something happens in our lives, we often post about it on our individual pages to let our friends know. For instance, people post about birthday parties, vacations, graduations, birth and the like. There are also “groups” that allow people to connect with specific sets of people, such as family, teammates or others who share the same interest or issues. Groups are dedicated spaces where one can share updates, photos or documents and send messages to other group members. However, as most family law attorneys can attest to, even what one might believe to be the most innocent or humorous posting can lead to problems in the realm of divorce/post divorce litigation. People often fail to consider all of the potential consequences and often fail to realize that not every “friend” is a “friend” and not every “connection” is a good one.
The use of social media may impact your domestic relations proceedings in innumerable ways. Some of the most common examples are as follows:
Photographs posted: Generally, photos that are posted by you or others can by used in litigation. If you are going through divorce/custody or post divorce litigation, consider how others will perceive the photos, such as your spouse or ex-spouse and think about how a judge could perceive the photographic evidence. For instance, if you are asserting an inability to afford to pay a certain level of support or if you are asserting that you need an increase in the support you receive, a picture of you vacationing in Europe or on a cruise could harm your case. Likewise, posting a picture of your new luxury car can hurt a case to reduce your alimony obligation or your case to increase your ex-spouse’s alimony payment.
In a custody matter, pictures of an intoxicated parent posted by the parent or by someone who merely “tags” the parent can be extremely problematic. I have successfully used such types of posted photos in custody litigation. I have seen and used for custody litigation purposes very unwise postings/pictures about the purchase and use of drug paraphernalia in a case where the allegations included a long history of drug abuse.
Status posts: Generally, your status posts can be used in litigation. Keep in mind that posting about your Saturday night out can be problematic if you are supposed to be spending the time with your children. Any post pertaining to one’s lifestyle that contradicts what is being asserted in court is problematic.
Even light hearted or sarcastic posts can be taken out of context and/or assigned a twisted meaning and used against you in litigation.
While family law attorneys should not have to warn clients about posting information or providing updates about one’s own divorce/post-judgment case, I have seen this too many times to mention. Certainly disparaging comments can be used in custody matters as proof of parental alienation and/or the post can be taken out of context. These matters are private and should remain that way.
Upon being warned about the use of social media, clients have argued that they have employed privacy settings for their pages and their groups. However, nothing is ever truly private on social media. For instance, your contacts/friends could be problematic: even if you do not post anything, your contacts/friends could inadvertently mention you in a post or post a picture of you that should not be seen by others. Couples have mutual friends some of whom may be more loyal to one spouse than the other. It is not unusual for clients to report to me about what a mutual “friend” or contact has seen on the other spouse’s page. The chances of this happening are even heightened when people are posting in groups. It is not unusual for one person to seek revenge against another by using a post against an individual or supplying a copy of it to a third party.
If you are involved in divorce or post judgment litigation, the best thing to do is not to use social media. If you chose to maintain social media accounts, chose your “friends” and contacts wisely and make sure to employ and update your privacy settings on all accounts. Additionally, follow the rule: Don’t post or let anyone post anything about you that you wouldn’t say to anyone in the whole world and that you would not want to be remembered forever.