Are you considering or going through a divorce at this time? If so, you should be aware of the risks of using social media during divorce.
Here’s some helpful information about using social media sites, like Facebook, if you’re in or will be involved in a court case for divorce, custody, co-parenting and assets.
First, you should know that social media means a wide variety of things—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Pinterest, personal blogs and other online sites. With so many social sites, this post will use Facebook as the primary example, but the information applies to anything posted online via a social sites.
How Social Media Is Used In Divorce Proceedings
All social media establishes a record of communication. In essence, social media tools allow people to put details of their life where others can see it, share it and comment on it. Regardless of how ‘casual’ or informal Facebook posts may seem, posts/comments can be obtained and used in divorce proceedings. This applies to Facebook updates, tweets, photos and information posted through any other social media site. In addition to online activity, keep an eye on your emails and text messages (both to and about your ex-spouse). Most of these are now admissible as evidence in court.
In divorce proceedings, you can count on the fact that your ex-partner’s attorney will be checking out your social networking sites and the activity you post there. Sites like Facebook have become important resources for guiding questions asked during divorce proceedings. Many attorneys also conduct a Google search of all parties, including their own client.
Social Media And Divorce Statistics
ABC News reports that four out of five American divorce lawyers note the use of social networking ‘evidence’ has increased in divorce proceedings in recent years. Specifically, research shows that 66% of online divorce evidence comes from Facebook. Many ex-spouses now use Facebook as a means to prove infidelity through inappropriate messages and other interactions via social media.
Currently, 1 out of every 5 U.S. divorce is at least partially due to Facebook. According to Divorce-Online, legal experts all agree that those statistics will continue to grow as more and more consumers log on to these sites to share updates about their lives, logging in each day to stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues. It’s no longer a rare occurrence for one spouse to learn of an affair or inappropriate behavior(s) via his/her partner’s Facebook page.
Due to the nature of online activity, even if you think you have set the profile, message or post to private, it still has the potential to spread to as large a community as you can imagine. One thing to consider when putting information on social networking sites is that you can’t remove it. The entry is permanent, even if you delete it. So it comes as no surprise to learn that 81% of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers members have used or encountered evidence taken from social media sites.
Social Media and Communication – Post With Care
While social media may provide a means of communication to express feelings of appreciation for wonderful things and experiences in our lives, others use social sites like Facebook to express anger, frustration and hostility at people and circumstances in their lives. When people are in negative states of mind, they may not think about the consequences of their comments and postings. You can’t take back what you write or a picture you post in the heat of the moment. Remember that the information shared is more than likely going to be seen by people you would rather not have access to it.
If you have children, depending on their age, it may mean they may have access to this online information as well. Before you post anything about your current or past life situation, think about whether this is something you would like to revisit in the future. Since posts stay on your timeline indefinitely, you may have to address comments or posts in the future with your children, other family members, employers and/or clients. Privacy is violated when you write something about others as well as about yourself.
Before you post to a social site, please consider:
- Evaluate your emotions before writing anything. If you’re frustrated or angry, do not post any comments or pictures.
- Think about what you would want your children and family to have access to in the future.
- Once you post, your privacy is breached and the ability to change your mind is not available.
- Defriend or block your soon to be ex-spouse and common friends to prevent damaging online communications.
- Check and change your privacy settings. Remember, your ex-spouse’s legal team can find and view everything posted on Facebook (or elsewhere online) through research and discovery regardless of privacy settings. Every posting, even deleted ones, are permanent.
- Assume your posts are also under review, hold back from online behaviors that may be viewed as “inappropriate” during divorce proceedings: flirting via chats, active profile on dating sites, texting while driving, sharing pictures showing you in a negative light (risky behaviors, such as drinking in excess).
- Use in-person visits or the telephone to talk about your divorce with family and friends rather than online where all communications are discoverable.
Dealing with a difficult divorce proceeding or co-parenting agreement? Then your best bet is to back away from using social media altogether. Social media sites like Facebook simply add to the long line of communication tools used to place one spouse in a more compromised position during divorce proceedings. By using the aforementioned cautionary posting tips and guidelines, you’ll eliminate much potential risk and damage to your case.
How a question that is not covered in this article? Please use our “Family Law Questions” on the left sidebar of our website. Or you may call our office at (561) 677-8090.