Individuals often (mistakenly) believe that what they post on social media is free from the scrutiny of the court in their family law matters. However, social media is increasingly becoming a primary source of evidence for many parties.
According to IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce lawyers claim clients have used social media as damning evidence against their spouses during the divorce process. Generally, all forms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Myspace, etc.) are admissible as evidence in Court.
You may innocently wish to keep your friends and family apprised of what’s going on in your life, and you may be toggling amongst your options for how to announce your divorce on social media.
- Make no announcement.
- Change back to your maiden name with no other mention, if applicable.
- Discretely change your relationship status to Single.
- Make a simple, informative post with a tasteful announcement.
- Spill every graphic detail of your journey as it unfolds.
While option 5 may feel therapeutic or justified, it just might land you in hot water with the court. Avoiding that and the following ought to help limit the likelihood that your social media accounts can be used against you:
Here’s What to Avoid
- Setting Your Account to Public– Maybe there is nothing posted on your account to worry about, but can you really be sure? Why give your spouse/ex the opportunity to possibly find something to use against you in court? If you are going through a divorce, it is best to not only set your account to “private,” but defriend or block your spouse/ex and any family or friends you think may monitor your account on your ex’s/spouse’s behalf. Additionally, monitor the posts, images, and locations in which you are tagged by your friends, in the event their profiles are being scrutinized as well.
- Ranting About Your Spouse/Ex– You may think your spouse is nightmare, but you don’t need to put it in writing to all your friends and acquaintances. If you have children, you can bet screenshots of your disparaging posts will be used against you in court, even if the posts themselves have nothing to do with your ex’s/spouse’s parenting abilities. (Yes, that includes those vague quotes that many love to post.) The ability to encourage a loving relationship between your children and their other parent is a factor that must be considered by the court in determining the final custodial arrangement.
- Posting About Your New Significant Other – You might want to shout from the rooftops that you “upgraded” from your soon-to-be-ex spouse, but there are several reasons why you might want to keep your new relationship private a little longer. If you and your spouse have children, a public post about a new partner may infer that you have been open with your children about the fact that you have moved on or that you have even introduced It can be confusing for children, especially younger ones, to see one of their parents with someone else. Additionally, your spouse could raise questions as to the stability of your home environment if you are subjecting your children to unnecessary changes during this already trying time.
If you do not have children, a post about a significant other could still be troubling. Did you tag your location at a hotel? Post a photo of you two at a high-end restaurant? Ohio is a no-fault state, where proving adultery does not entitle you to more of the marital assets. Yet spending marital funds on a new partner may be deemed financial misconduct. In such instances, you may have to pay your spouse more than fifty percent of the funds you already spent on your new partner.
- Forgetting to Change Your Password– While you may not have shared your social media passwords with your spouse/ex, it is likely they know enough about you to guess correctly or perhaps you use the same password for everything. In any event, you will want to change all your passwords (including for online banking apps, utility pay, etc.) as soon as possible. There have been numerous instances where one party has logged onto the social media account of the other in an effort to create false evidence.
Regardless of how slighted you feel, taking to a public forum to vent and share information comes with strong caution. As a general rule of divorce (as well as other family law court proceedings), whether on social media or otherwise, erring on the side of good taste and discretion is always the best practice. If you have questions about yours or your opposing party’s use of social media, our best advice is to consult with a domestic relations attorney for sound advice.