In 2016, everyone can be found on the internet. The company you work for has a website where you are listed, you likely have a Linkedin page, a Facebook account, Twitter handle, and maybe even Pinterest, Instagram, or Snapchat accounts. With social media embedded on our phones and intertwined throughout our lives, it is showing up in courtrooms and affecting custody cases, divorce proceedings, and other family law matters. Understand the rules of engagement before you post one more photo or seemingly harmless update.
Your social media accounts provide your friends, followers, foes, fans, and even strangers with a glimpse into your likes, dislikes, interests, habits, and activities. And while the photos of you and the kids at brunch after church may belong on the cover of Parenting Magazine, the photos from your Saturday night ripping tequila shots don’t quite tell the same story.
If you’re thinking that you’re safe because your accounts are “blocked” or “private”- think again. Privacy settings are never as truly private as you would like to believe. All it takes is a forensic technology expert, or worse- a savvy sixteen year old with a laptop, to find that old MySpace profile you thought you deleted back in 2005.
And in the context of your custody or divorce case, you social media posts, photos, profiles, and account history all may be discoverable evidence. If you delete or modify your social media account history at any point during your litigation, you are destroying evidence, which could result in sanctions and negatively impact your case. It’s important to be honest with your family law attorney, who will properly advise you about how best to handle social media when you have a divorce or family law matter pending.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself before you post on social media:
- Is this something I would say out loud? Or am I simply having keyboard courage? It’s easy to want to tell people how you feel when you’re behind a computer screen, rather than looking at the person face-to-face. If the message or language is not something you would say directly to your audience, you probably don’t want to post it on the internet either.
- Is this something I would want my boss or grandmother or children to see? If the answer is no, it’s probably not something you would want the judge presiding over your custody case to see either.
- Ask yourself even though this is a statement I want to make right now, will I feel the same way tomorrow? If you’re posting due to anger, sadness, revenge, jealousy, or even intoxication, you may want to give it some time and see if you feel the same way about the post after you have had time to cool down. Better yet, if you are under the influence of any substance or about to be, don’t post.
- Maybe the most important question if you are currently in litigation, is this something my attorney would advise against? If the answer is yes, you probably don’t want to post it, comment on it, or link to it.
- Finally, what are the issues in your case? If you are taking a position that you can’t afford an expense, does it look good to post pictures of your new car or your lavish night out? If you are embroiled in a custody case, how do those photos of you out on the town rather than spending time with your kids look?
Speak to your attorney, and whether in litigation or not, do your best to make sensible decisions about social media.