Social media is now such a part of daily life it is easy to forget that it hasn’t been around all that long. Facebook didn’t become available to the general public until 2006, and other social media sites are even newer.
These online platforms have been a social experiment happening in real-time on a global scale. And while these sites have contributed positively to the culture, they have also created many unintended consequences. In the realm of family law, studies have shown that social media can unintentionally harm the people going through a family law dispute.
This information is not new, but it bears repeating. In this post, we’ll discuss some warnings about social media use during a divorce, custody case or other family law matter.
Facebook is a treasure trove of evidence, and nothing is truly private
In the pre-trial phase of a litigated divorce, attorneys for both spouses will engage in the discovery process. They go on a fact-finding mission to gather information and evidence relevant to the case.
These days, a large amount of that evidence comes from social media sites, especially Facebook. Information you post or share privately could be used against you in ways that you never expected. Social media information can be used to show or strongly suggest that:
- One party is spending recklessly or hiding assets
- One party has a history of infidelity
- One party has a problem with drugs or alcohol
- One party is harming the well-being of the children by introducing them immediately to new romantic partners
- One spouse is publicly badmouthing the other in ways that would harm the children
These are just a few among dozens of examples of how thing things you post online could be interpreted or misinterpreted. And even if you share this information privately or block your spouse from seeing them, other site users can see and pass on this information. Attorneys may also be able to subpoena the information during the discovery process.
The smartest move you can make is to stay off of social media until your family law case is resolved. If you cannot or will not abstain, you need to at least assume that anything you post could be read by an attorney, a judge, or even your children.
What you post could damage a co-parenting relationship
A shared parenting arrangement is not uncommon during and following divorce. For this and other reasons, it is important to maintain a civil relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse and any other adults your children will interact with (such as your ex’s family).
It may be tempting to want to vent about your ex online or to discuss details of your case to keep others informed. Doing so is not a good idea. During custody proceedings, it could signal to a judge that you aren’t willing to put your children’s best interests ahead of your own hurt and anger. And even after a parenting plan is already in place, publicly airing your grievances will likely harm your ability to co-parent peacefully, which creates more difficulty for you and your children. As mentioned above, keeping these thoughts off of the internet is the best way to avoid problems.
Talk to your attorney about social media
Once you hire a family law attorney, they will be able to provide specific guidance on whether you need to take a break from social media altogether (during legal proceedings, at least). Until that time, please be aware that whatever you post online could be used or misused in ways you never expected, and that you should monitor your own use accordingly.