In the last decade, social media has become a huge part of everyday life for people around the world. When things happen, whether good or bad, someone is going to post it on Facebook or Twitter. What many people neglect to realize, however, is that these public statements and photos can have negative effects on certain aspects of their lives, notably if they are going through a divorce.
While they have been able to push married couples into the idea of divorce in the first place –Facebook has been linked to 66 percent of divorces, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers – public posts about a spouse or one’s personal life during the course of divorce proceedings can also often be used as admissible evidence in court and can negatively affect child custody proceedings and asset division. In fact, 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce lawyers have said in a survey done by AAML that, in the last five years, more clients have used social media networks as evidence against a spouse.
How Social Media Can Harm You in Court
It may not seem as though a post about a new purchase, a “check in” at a location on Facebook or a photo can hold too many negative consequences, especially online. However, many people don’t realize just how much information can be drawn from these seemingly irrelevant posts or just how big an impact they can have.
A post about a soon-to-be ex-spouse may just seem like a typical way to vent via Facebook; however, what is said can also reflect upon the person who said it. Making angry, emotionally charged posts about an ex can make you seem irrational or particularly bitter. These kinds of statements, even if they aren’t seen directly by your spouse, can be seen by mutual friends and family, and they may be used in divorce proceedings, particularly child custody disputes, as evidence that a person may not be emotionally capable of having custody of a child. If you say something false about your ex via social media, this could also be grounds for that ex to sue for libel. Even things that are deleted can still often be recovered and used in court.
Many social media platforms give users the option to check in at certain locations, alerting their friends and family where they are at given times. While it may seem harmless for an ex to be aware of your whereabouts, if these time-stamped posts conflict with any statements made in court, they can be used to prove that you might be deceptive. Further, the types of locations that you check in at can make statements about your lifestyle. Check-ins at lavish restaurants and high-end shopping centers could negatively affect you during asset division, potentially making it seem as though you are hiding assets. Check-ins at bars or locations known to serve alcohol could possibly hint at an alcohol addiction, which could harm you during child custody proceedings.
Photos are another everyday part of Facebook and apps like Instagram, and these can be incriminating if not carefully monitored. Pictures with new purchases, even if they aren’t your own, can affect asset division proceedings. Pictures, especially those that you are tagged in by someone else, can also place you in certain locations or with certain people, which can serve as evidence of infidelity or a lifestyle that conflicts with taking care of children.
How to Avoid Legal Ramifications
While it may seem as though anything and everything can be used against you in court, there are ways that you can avoid causing problems for yourself during your divorce:
- Be careful what you say – Many legal professionals advise their clients not to say anything on social media that they would not want a judge, or the entire world, to see.
- Don’t post locations – You may be sharing more information about yourself than you realize.
- Inform family and friends not to tag you – Even if you are diligent about what you post online, friends and family may not be, and they may post incriminating evidence for you.
- Don’t look at your ex’s social media account – You may be tempted to see what your ex is up to, but his or her social media posts may only make you angry and could cause you to do something you wouldn’t normally. If looking for evidence to sue in court against your ex, have a trusted friend or lawyer browse the account for you.
- Close your accounts – If you know you can’t regulate what you post on social media, delete your account. This is the best way to prevent information about you from spreading online.