Lately there has been a lot of attention given to social networking sites and the role they play in divorce. Not only are the number of relationships broken up by information posted online growing, but those postings are finding their way into the court room. Many people may be surprised to know how often pictures and posts to online sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit, and Snap Chat are submitted as evidence at a divorce trial or custody hearing. Even with all of the attention in the media, I still have to frequently remind my clients to be very careful about what they post online, because those comments or photos can be used against you.
– Check you security and account settings to determine what access people have to your information. Keep in mind that these sites frequently update their security and sharing settings so you should periodically review to make sure that only the people you want to view your information are able to.
– Be wary of posting photos of your minor children or identifying them by name in a public forum. Not only can an ex or divorcing spouse request a hearing asking to have those photos taken down, which can increase animosity and attorney’s fees in a custody battle, but you do not want to make it easy for online predators to identify your children. Double check the sharing settings on any posted photos of children and be sure to disable geotracking on your phone if using it for photos.
– Notwithstanding your security settings, your ex or divorcing spouse may still be able to obtain printed copies of posts or photos you submitted even if he/she is no longer listed as a “friend” or contact. Just because you no longer give your ex-spouse access to your page does not mean a mutual friend will not pass on the information to your ex-spouse. Only post information that you are comfortable with your ex and the judge seeing.
– For personal security reasons, limit posts containing personal information like birthdates, anniversaries and phone numbers. It does not take much for an identity thief to steal your information and credit.
– Be wary of posting information advertising that you are on vacation or away from your home. There is no point making it easy for thieves to know when you will not be home. Along those same lines, seriously consider whether you want to use social check-in applications on the social media sites that identify your exact location at a given time. This is particularly concerning in cases involving domestic violence, stalking, and/or controlling behavior. A social check-in application makes it very easy for someone to know exactly where you are and who you are with.
The concern is usually not with the social media sites themselves but rather the bad judgment of the users. The remedy for the problems caused by using these social media sites is not to stop using them, but to be very careful about what you post and to make sure you have applied the appropriate security settings. Keep in mind that future and current employers, current and ex-spouses, identity thieves, divorce attorneys, private investigators, and frankly anyone, can easily obtain very intimate and personal information about you from your online profiles. Networking sites can be a wonderful tool to keep in contact with friends and family members and to network professionally. Just remember to proceed with caution when posting personal information in a public forum.
Finally, keep in mind that removing a questionable post or photo can also be problematic. If you are involved in litigation, you may have a duty to preserve any electronically stored information, which would include social media sites. In a divorce, social media is almost always relevant and by deleting “evidence” from social media you could be subject to sanctions for failure to preserve relevant evidence. Also concerning is that when you delete a post from many social media sites, it is never really gone. Not only can a post be saved via a screenshot but many sites allow users to download the available data and history. For instance, the information that is downloadable from Facebook includes not only every post, photo, like, and message, but you may also be able to retrieve information on what apps a user is using, what ads a user has clicked on, IP addresses associated with the account, and searches. This information is easily available to the user and discoverable in a family law case.
At Waterfall Economidis our attorneys can help guide you through all aspects of your divorce or family law matter including advising you regarding the role of social media in your case.
Article Written By: Lisa Schriner Lewis