Most people have a love-hate relationship with social media. They love staying in touch with friends and family, seeing all the vacation photos, and learning all of the news. However, most people are also well aware that anything posted on the internet becomes public information – not only to your friends but also to virtually anyone interested in looking in.
Even if you try to protect it, your information is easily accessed by anyone who is computer savvy.
People are learning that they need to be more discreet on social media sites, and it is especially significant for those going through a lawsuit or a divorce.
You may think that as long as you do not post about your divorce on your social feeds, your posted information is benign, but this may not be the case. It is probably best to stay off social media entirely during these procedures, but if you can’t, here are some tips to keep in mind to protect your interests.
Social Media and Divorce
Many people don’t realize that once something is posted online, it can never really be deleted. Those fighting against you in court can employ professionals who can access any of your posts, past or present – or even enlist the help of friends you think are “on your side” to share your posts to them. Before sharing anything during a divorce, think about how social media can impact your case.
Impact on custody rights: In most cases, the subject of child custody is the most emotional and heart-wrenching aspect of a divorce case. Sadly, the children often become the focal point of much of the fighting, and parents are willing to go to great lengths to protect their custodial rights.
Your soon-to-be-ex-spouse could therefore use photos of you drinking, partying, or acting irresponsibly as a reason your rights should be limited. Keep any such images or information off the internet, so your fitness to have custody is not impacted.
Window into Spending Habits: As contentious as custody battles are, the fights over financial matters, including alimony, child support, and marital property division are a close second.
Whether you are trying to limit your payment amount or influence the judge to give you a larger settlement, your social media photos could be detrimental to your case. Posting about your new expensive car, your Caribbean vacation, or your new Rolex watch could prove costly to your overall efforts.
Photos are Data Points: Photos don’t only provide an immense amount of detail regarding where you were and who you were with, but they also often have time and location information embedded – pinpointing exactly where you were and when you were there. You never know how this information can arise to bite you.
Sadly, the phrase “anything can and will be used against you” is appropriate in this situation.
You Can’t Take Your Words Back: We understand that divorces are very emotional. You may experience sadness, anger, resentment, fear, and anxiety – or even excitement on any given day. But firing off a post while in an emotional state is never a good idea, and many eyes are likely to read your words.
Remember, married couples often have mutual friends, family members, and coworkers on their pages – not to mention their children. Strong words against your ex can make the judge see you in a negative light, and you may even say something in the heat of the moment that can hurt your case. Keep a diary to write down your emotions, and keep them offline.
Even if you delete your words later, someone could have easily taken a photo of the rant.
Protect Yourself and Your Case
When in doubt, check with your family law attorney about the appropriateness of your social media activity. Generally, it is best to stay off social media entirely to be safe.
Richard V. Ellis is a Sarasota family law and bankruptcy attorney.