by Attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist Raelynn Stattner
Almost everyone has a social media footprint these days, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or some combination of these and others. Social media often plays an important role in people’s lives; it’s an effective tool to stay connected to friends and family and to share your thoughts and feelings about major events in your life, especially during current social-distancing
If you’re going through a divorce or other family law matter, you might post about your experiences related to the legal process, custody, and child or spousal support issues. Here’s the thing: it’s easy to forget the long-term effects or possible ramifications of social media posting when it’s constantly at your fingertips. For parties involved with a family law case, there are extra considerations to be aware of with social media participation. Below are some ways social media can be used against you in court:
Your ex-spouse claims to be unemployed and reports no income.
However, your friend locates a social media post of your ex-spouse spreading the word about his business, complete with the business logo and photos of him at the storefront. You can be sure your attorney will use this against your ex-spouse in court.
Your formers spouse is under orders to refrain from alcohol consumption during his/her
If you can locate social media pictures of your ex-spouse at a pool party consuming alcohol with a few friends during his/her custodial time, this could be used to argue for a stricter custody schedule.
You are awarded spousal support in your divorce.
When you find a new love, you decide to move in together and post news of this exciting life event on social media to share with friends. After your ex-spouse sees this post, he files for a reduction of spousal support based on your cohabitation.
There can also be serious legal consequences related to the content and management of social media, outside of the direct impact on the outcome of your family law matter. Consider the following scenarios:
During a custody battle, you participate in a custody evaluation.
When you receive the written report, you see it supports your position, including your allegations that your ex-spouse is an unfit parent. In your excitement, you post a portion of the report on social media to show your family and friends your victory. However, you have just committed sanctionable conduct. Such reports are confidential, and you may have to pay a fine and face other legal consequences.
Your spouse files for divorce.
You delete social media postings that your spouse could use against you in a custody and support battle. Adverse legal consequences could follow in relation to such changes, if a court finds that they would in any way relate to your case. A court could also find your erasing or modifying prior postings as spoliation (“tampering”) of evidence, which is a serious offense.
Social media can be both a target and a tool in a family law proceeding. How you choose to use it can have a significant impact on your case. To safeguard yourself as best as possible, avoiding social media postings may be best. At a minimum, carefully consider the content of your social media and how you manage your account(s). An experienced family law attorney can advise you how to navigate social media during your family law matter.