Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last fifteen (15) years, it is hard to imagine a force that has had a more significant impact on day to day life than social media. I know personally, my screen time alerts from Apple indicate far more time spent on social media than I am proud of. Recent events have greatly magnified the social media microscope and the incredible power it wields, from providing evidence for the impeachment of a former sitting president to stripping a congresswoman of her committee assignments. Politics aside, social media can be a treasure trove of evidence and information in family law cases as well.
The rule of thumb for social media, when engaged in a divorce or custody case (and really just a good rule of thumb in general), is THINK BEFORE YOU POST. Think about how the information can be used against you. Think about whether it is something you want your children to see someday. Think about whether it is something you would like an employer to see. Do not post anything that you would not want read in front of a judge.
It is never appropriate to post negative information about the opposing party in a divorce or custody case, especially when the opposing party is a co-parent. It is also ill-advised to post information about finances. Never post pictures of yourself, children, or others in compromising positions. Assume any post that hits social media can be and will be used against you. Searching and investigating someone’s online presence is now a standard legal practice, and social media account credentials can be requested in discovery.
Consider taking a hiatus from social media while your family law case is pending. If that isn’t possible, however, privacy settings are your friend. All parties to divorce and custody cases should ensure the highest level of security on all social media accounts and use the security setting that requires user approval before you can be tagged in a post. You should also not delete anything previously posted on your social media accounts as this could be considered spoliation of evidence and could negatively impact your case. Friends and family who are apt to post about you should also be notified, cautioned, and/or asked not to post. What may seem like an innocent photo on social media can reveal more information than you would like, including location, so always be mindful of location tracking.
Limiting your social media presence during a divorce or custody case may seem like an inconvenience, but it may ultimately save you from embarrassment or consequences in your case that you did not foresee. Be sure to have a conversation with a knowledgeable attorney about your social media usage when facing or going through a family law matter.