Social networking has exploded in the last few years and it’s certainly started to have an impact on divorce. We’re seeing clients use Facebook updates, tweets, Flickr photos and other incriminating information as evidence of cheating, poor parenting and general bad behavior by their spouse.
The divorce lawyers have started to notice.
I’ve seen legal articles where lawyers describe social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as “a potential treasure trove of legal evidence.” Divorce lawyers are looking for information they can use against you. Here are a few examples:
- Information about your social life;
- Photos with children in places they shouldn’t be;
- Photos of you consuming liquor or using drugs;
- Income and employment information; or
- Inappropriate sexual content
Did you tell your spouse that you can’t afford to pay for new school clothes for the kids? The Facebook photos of your trip to Cancun will probably change how the Judge will view your situation.
Are you in a custody battle? Your spouse’s lawyer wants to make you look irresponsible. If it’s supposed to be your weekend with the kids and you tweet about how how drunk you got on 6th Street Saturday, you may not look like the most responsible parent.
Are you trying to keep things civil and reach an agreement with your spouse? He may become much less reasonable when someone tells him they saw your Facebook updates about your new boyfriend.
Are you trying to reduce your child support payments? If you’re telling your spouse you can’t find a job, but you’re tweeting about an impending job offer with a great salary, you’re going to have trouble.
Don’t Complicate Your Divorce with Social Networking
If you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, you certainly shouldn’t be posting about it online. I don’t care if it’s a “private” site or not. You should assume that everything you post online could be seen.
Here are a few tips to reduce your chances of complicating your divorce with a Facebook slip or an inappropriate tweet.
Be careful what you post. Remember that many sites share your updates with friends of friends. What you say will probably be seen by more people than you think. Twitter in particular broadcasts everything you say. There’s no privacy at all, so beware.
Change your passwords. If your spouse knows all your passwords, you need to change them to something that he or she can’t easily guess. Don’t use your kid’s birthdays or your pet’s names. Make it something complicated.
Clean up your online information. Go through all or your online sites and get rid of anything that could be considered inappropriate or embarrassing. If there’s too much to clean up, it may be easier to close the account.
Check your privacy settings. If you’ve already set them once, you should check them again. Facebook in particular is notorious for making radical changes to their privacy policies. What you think is private won’t always remain that way. You need to look very carefully at the privacy settings for each site so you know who can see what.
Know your friends. Be careful of any friend requests from people you don’t know. It’s easy for someone to create a new profile and use it to gain access to your information.
Be honest with your lawyer. If there’s something that you can’t remove and you’re afraid it will complicate things, tell your lawyer about it. You don’t want your lawyer to learn about your affair when the opposing counsel asks you about it during a hearing.
A Word of Caution About Using Social Networking Sites Against Your Spouse
If you’re planning on using social media sites against your spouse in a divorce, be very careful how you get the information.
Don’t “hack” into your spouse’s accounts or try to guess their password. That’s a violation of federal wiretapping laws.