The wonderful world of social media provides positive connections in a time when most people are trying to stay apart. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or any other online source can be beneficial to keeping in touch with friends and family. When it comes to a divorce or custody action, however, social media can be your worst frenemy. The following are some ground rules to follow when using social media while facing a divorce or custody case:
- Assume someone is always watching. Almost any photo or post by or about you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or other online sources can help an opposing party or opposing attorney. Photos and comments on social networking sites easily can be found by attorneys and defense attorneys looking for ways to discredit a party or portray the party in a negative way. Assume they are researching you and monitoring your online activities.
- Know what information is out there. It is surprisingly easy to find photographs and other information about you online. Search yourself on the web and see what information you turn up. Do this more than once during your case so you can stay on top of any negative information that might have been put out in the social media universe without your knowledge.
- Think twice before you post anything or allow others to post anything about you. If you do choose to be on Facebook or any other social networking site, be very hesitant to post any information about yourself. And be very cautious about how you and your family are portrayed.
- DO NOT delete any information on social media. Legal rules regarding “spoliation” of evidence do not allow a person with a legal claim to destroy evidence harmful to the claim. In fact, once you contemplate the possibility of bringing a lawsuit, there is a duty to preserve evidence relevant to your claim. Strictly construed, the rules require that you not destroy evidence harmful to your claim, and that you take steps to preserve relevant information by avoiding all intentional and automatic deletions of data.
- Understand that what you post on social media is subject to interpretation. Some information may be misconstrued to cast a false light on your character, priorities, or conduct, while other information simply may not portray you in the best light. Photos or comments depicting party behavior, inside jokes, alcohol use, or sexual or vulgar humor may seem funny and even harmless to those who post them, but they will not help your case and almost certainly will hurt it. Even routine and seemingly innocent information may be used by opponents to claim that your life is not what you are saying it is.
We may have to live with the information already “out there” but let us not make matters worse. Consider whether it is worthwhile for you to be on social networking sites at all. As you proceed with a divorce or custody case, it is always important to put your best foot forward. Know what is on social media that is connected to your name and think twice before you post seemingly innocent family photos or allow your friend to post that photo of you drinking at the bar last weekend.