During a divorce or family law case, a party should significantly reduce social media activity during the course of the case. Social media sites can be a double edged sword when entering into a family law case as they can either provide you with valuable information and/or they can give the other party harmful evidence to use against you in court. Social media may include any online website that provides current information about you including, but not limited to: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, YouTube and a multitude of dating websites. It is important to make changes to these social media sites if these accounts are intended to remain active throughout and after the course of your divorce or family law case in order to protect your privacy and secure your personal information.
Secure Your Social Media Accounts
In order to secure your various social media accounts, make sure that you go into account settings and set as many of the options as possible to private. In the alternative, you may want to suspend or cancel certain social media accounts. You can Google instructions to make your social media accounts private or suspend and/or cancel the accounts. Also, make sure that each individual post in your past history is set to private in order for the information to not publicly appear. Next, make sure to delete any contacts and profiles not immediately recognized as an immediate friend. Also, seriously consider “unfriending” individuals who may incite conflict or gather information for the other party. If you believe that the other party may create problems through social media, then it is important to block that person and anyone associated with them that may try to access your social media information.
Always make sure to close your internet browser pages after using a social media website to prevent anyone from accessing your accounts when you are away from your computer. Also, change all passwords to your accounts, and if possible configure your social media account(s) to send you a phone or email verification if someone other than you may be trying to access your account(s). Finally, make sure that any location services that track your location (most common with mobile phones) are turned off on the social media sites to prevent your whereabouts becoming public knowledge and/or used by the other party to stalk or harass your.
Important Note: But do not destroy evidence or delete information from your social media accounts – as this could cause problems later in your divorce or family law case.
Do Not Use Social Media To:
- Air complaints about or insult the other party. This information will get back to them and can harm your case.
- Publish information concerning money, wealth, travel, possessions, new jobs, property, or extramarital relationships or affairs.
- Change your relationship status. It is almost never a good idea to change relationship status during a divorce or family law case.
- Post pictures or statements that could poorly reflect on your character. Also, be careful about others taking your picture and posting in on their social media accounts.
What To Do if you Come Across the Other Party’s Postings?
If you legitimately come across the other party’s postings that contain evidence you may want to use in court, be sure to obtain a print out of the information and/or screen shots of the information. If the posting is serious or could alter the outcome of the case, inform your divorce or family law attorney immediately of the information obtained and send them a copy of such information. If the information is threatening to you or your loved ones, notify the police and look into obtaining a court protective order.
It is important to note that information that is not legitimately (legally) obtained cannot be used as evidence in court. This includes any information obtained through spyware, hacking the account(s), or by making fake social media profiles. However, information can be provided by a third parties that legitimately (legally) obtain the information so long as it is accompanied by an affidavit or testimony that the information was legitimately received. In cases where criminal activity has reportedly taken place, the social media site may be subpoenaed to obtain all records concerning the illegal activity. But this is very rare and social media sites generally only produce information directly if there is serious criminal activity.
In any event, do not let the other party know you are viewing their social media pages. However, some social media websites can let people know who is viewing their profiles so long as the other person is logged into their own account.
How to Handle Public Information
Technically, anything you post to an online source could become public information and could be used against you in your divorce or family law case. This is especially true if you post information on to open groups online or post information on other individual’s profiles. Even comments on other individual’s tweets or posts can become public knowledge if the posts are public. Anything that is posted publicly is accessible to the other party in a lawsuit and the information provided can give all sorts of detailed information. This information may include, but not limited to: who you are recently associating with, activities you are participating in, recent photographs showing places you have been and people you know, and how you spend your money and time. In any event, it is best that you limit as much as possible all public information that is available on you social media accounts and you should refrain from posting on other forums that are publicly accessible.
If you are facing a divorce or family law case, and have questions about Facebook, Google+, dating sites or any other social media issues, call us at 770-609-1247 to discuss your case with one of our attorneys.
Content Revised: 2016-01-05