Will Social Media Impact my Divorce/Custody Case? Three Things You Should Know.
By Noreen Bratton, NJCP
Social media accounts can be a fun and entertaining method to share your personal life with your family and friends. Social media accounts can also be detrimental if you are involved in family law related litigation and your posts and photographs end up in the wrong hands. There are three simple rules to follow if you subscribe to any social media accounts while involved in Family Law litigation, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Tumblr, just to name the most popular platforms:
Review your privacy settings.
Make sure to change your privacy settings so the “public” cannot access your postings and photographs. Narrow access to your information to only your closest friends and family members. All these “friend” lists and “connections” are hinged together to an infinite number of generational links. Often times, photographs and posts become exhibits in documents used in Family Court. Help your attorney in advance of Court proceedings by not having to explain distasteful or incriminating photographs of you that were posted on social media. Remember that we live in an electronic world. Friends and family members are constantly taking photographs with cell phones, “tagging” us or “checking in” to venues in posts on social media. Change your settings so that your connections to your social media accounts require your prior review and approval before posting. This way you have some level of control of your privacy. You may even want to chat with friends and family and let them know that you need your privacy at this time and to take caution with including you in their social media postings. Lastly, change your password, especially if you shared it with your spouse.
Do not post anything personal.
Keep things light and simplistic. Sharing a comic about a cat practicing yoga poses is acceptable. Sharing a photograph or bragging about spending money on extravagant items when you expressed in your court documents that you can barely make ends meet is not a good idea! Did you know that during the course of discovery in a litigated Family Law matter, you may be requested to provide a digital download of all of your social media accounts? If you are involved in litigation or are about to become involved in litigation, you have a duty not to destroy evidence that might be discoverable in a lawsuit, which includes information stored electronically, such as your e-mails and social media accounts. So rather than be concerned about the personal information about yourself that you may have posted on a social media platform, do not put it out there in the first place.
The best advice to give you if you are involved in Family Law litigation, take a break from social media accounts. Stop posting altogether. Disable your accounts. The advice is not to delete those accounts. As previously stated above, you cannot delete these accounts as you are obligated to preserve electronically stored information. Do not take the risk of a post or photograph that portrays you as distasteful ending up as a Court exhibit before a Family Part Judge.
In summary, be cautious with social media accounts while involved in Family Law litigation. It is difficult for your attorney to explain or defend a social media posting or photograph that sheds a bad light on you. It is more beneficial that such posts do not exist at all!
If you have questions about how your social media use might affect your potential family law case, reach out to one of our attorneys for a consultation: 215-665-3000.
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.
Noreen Bratton is a New Jersey Certified Paralegal (NJCP) in Obermayer’s Mt. Laurel office.