I'm considering divorce and not sure what to do about my social media accounts. Do you have any advice on how to handle these?
The world of social media has changed the way we all communicate on a daily basis. An unintended - but not so surprising - consequence of this is its impact on marriages and divorces. It’s interesting to think about how something as trivial and relatively unimportant as someone’s social media account can play such an important role in a marriage or divorce process, and yet it seems that in today’s social media driven world it should not be too quickly overlooked as you proceed in this process.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) did a survey and found that 81% of top divorce attorneys in the country admit to seeing an increase over the past five years in the number of cases using social networking evidence; 66% cited Facebook as the primary source for such online evidence followed by other services such as Instagram, MySpace and Twitter. While Facebook and other social media sites generally are not the only cause of a divorce, the content contained on one’s profile page can be a treasure trove of evidence in many family law proceedings.
My advice to clients is usually as follows:
A. Some attorneys strongly advocate “divorcing” your social media pages if you are going through a divorce. While this is a somewhat extreme suggestion it will in all likelihood, guarantee the best method of prevention of issues related to social media moving forward.
B. So long as there is no Court Order in place regarding the preservation of digital evidence, there is nothing preventing you from deleting your social media accounts or at minimum removing or deleting any posts that you would prefer not come up in a court proceeding. Remember though, that your “digital footprint” may always be discoverable even if these are deleted. Just because you delete these doesn’t mean the company will in their archives. This further emphasizes the importance of being very careful how you use social media in your daily life.
C. Always change your passwords and remove common access to your social media accounts on any shared devices, icloud accounts or other methods where your spouse may have access.
D. If you really feel like you have to use social media during your divorce, it’s imperative that you use good judgment and be discrete in what you post. An extra measure of caution will never hurt. “Think before you post.”
E. Social media must be seen as both public and permanent and one should be careful not to tweet, share, post, or photograph anything that you would not like to disclose to the whole world. Think about your potential audience before posting anything, in the best of times, and most importantly, when you are mad, angry or upset. As we all know, screenshots can be taken by anyone with access to your social media pages at any time, and even if you later delete the post, these can often come back to haunt you in a divorce proceeding.
F. Don’t badmouth or share personal information about your spouse on social media. Don’t do this directly or “indirectly” in a vague or cryptic manner either. You must remember that taking the high road is always the best route – and you never want to post anything that your children or even your spouse’s employer could see. While this may feel like the right thing to do, there is never anything positive that could come from this. Remember – settling your case and both of you being reasonable is the best way to save on legal fees. Vent to a friend over pizza and wine – in person.
G. Everyone who uses social media should educate themselves on changes that can be made to enhance the privacy of social media. One important part of this is the location services aspect. Many social media sites will reveal your location when you upload images and post status updates.
H. It’s a good idea, even if you are friendly with your “soon-to-be ex” to keep your social networking groups or circles as separate as possible. You never know when the emotional tides will turn and readily incriminating evidence found online can be used against you.
i. Don’t give evidence to your spouse’s attorney on a “silver platter.” Listing yourself on social media or even a dating site as “single and childless” won’t bode well if that’s not true. Likewise, a new significant other’s Twitter comment about giving you expensive gifts of jewelry might cause a reevaluation of your assets.
J. The best advice with social media is to create as minimal of an online presence as possible.
If you are in doubt on how to minimize the impact of social media on your divorce case, it’s always best to seek experienced advice from a family law attorney to make sure you are protecting yourself.
Candi Peeples has earned a reputation as a leader among family law attorneys in Alabama and the U.S. She brings her experience, focus and passion for excellence to each client she represents.
No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.