Social media is a part of most people’s every day lives. #Facebook now has over 2 billion monthly users. #Twitter has over 328 million users and #Instagram has over 700 million users. Other social media sites include #Snapchat, #LinkedIn and #Pinterest. These social media networks can provide support when people are going through the emotional pain and financial disruption of a divorce; however, using social media during divorce is fraught with potential hazards. Here are some tips:
- Preferably stop using social media or suspend using social media during the pendency of the divorce. If you don’t post anything; then, it can not be used against you.
- Don’t delete your profile or content if you are involved in litigation or in anticipation of litigation. Speak with an attorney. This could be illegal or spoliation of evidence. Moreover, even if deleted, digital forensics frequently can still reveal the data. Do change your passwords.
- If you can’t or don’t want to stop or suspend use of social media, don’t post anything negative about the other parent or other family members. Nothing disparaging. Nothing derogatory. Don’t use social media to vent. Monitor the comments of your family as well. They can be on your side, but they shouldn’t attack your child’s other parent. Things said online can not be unsaid. What would your children think if they saw what you wrote about their beloved mom or dad? Think about now and also many years from now.
- Anything posted online can be used against you in court. Do not post anything on social media that is questionable, illegal, or could be considered immoral. Think twice before posting anything about pornography, gambling, medications, online dating, or even possibly online trading. Are you tagged in any partying or drinking pictures? Don’t allow social media to set the narrative of who you are as a person or as a parent. Think about the most old-fashioned, traditional person and their moral compass. That person could be your judge and might be judging your life and determining how much time you will be able to spend with your children. This could have severe consequences to you when it comes to a determination of your child’s best interests for custody.
- Change your privacy settings to the highest levels. Don’t allow yourself to be tagged in other people’s photos or profiles. If you belong to “secret” groups, remember that other members can see your posts and could potentially provide these to your ex, their attorney or the court. So-called private messages are discoverable as are text messages. Even with the highest privacy settings, do not assume that anything you say online is truly private.
- Don’t discuss your case online or seek negative information about your spouse from friends on social media. Do not say anything negative about your spouse, the other attorney, any mediator, any evaluator and especially not the judge. Even if you believe that one of these people has made a major mistake. If your case, was decided wrongly, there is a short time to appeal. If there are problems, discuss them with your attorney.
- Find out what is already out there. Google and Bing yourself. Do it with and without quotations. Try it with your middle name and without.
- Don’t engage in intimate photos/videos with your spouse or any others. Don’t post sensual pictures that your spouse sent you during your relationship. It is illegal in many places to post intimate pictures without the other persons consent and knowledge. Posting photos or videos to revenge porn sites may cost people their jobs, large monetary damage awards and even potential incarceration. Adultery may be a complete bar to spousal support and may affect equitable distribution.
- Monitor your children’s social media usage. You can be liable for your children’s actions. Social media can be damaging to children through online bullying, online predators.
- Don’t use social media at work. Anything that you use at work can be or is monitored. Use your own personal devices for social media. Do start a new e-mail account if you wish to use e-mail with your attorney.
Think not only about all of the social media networks, but also all of the devices that information can be stored on. Evidence can be on your home computer, laptop, cellphone, tablet, e-mail and even internet search profiles. Remember that through the discovery process for litigation any of your social media accounts along with their contents are discoverable and will need to be produced. So always think twice before pressing post or send in any social media account.
With social media, when in doubt- leave it out. If you have questions, give us a call or send us a message. Here at NOVA Legal Professionals, our Virginia divorce lawyers located in Fairfax and Manassas can walk you through all the step of the divorce process and give you the advice and guidance that you need. Read more about how we have helped our clients here.