Social media is widely used in all types of family law cases, and can be highly persuasive in a courtroom. The majority of U.S. adults are active on some type of social network, so this impacts nearly everyone. Anything you have published on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, a personal blog, etc., may become evidence in a divorce or custody case. Even when posts are deleted, it is almost impossible to remove them from the internet entirely, and you may additionally be accused of attempting to hide evidence from the court.
Here are seven types of posts to avoid at all costs:
Posts that reveal income or assets. Any evidence of luxury, whether it alludes to a high-income lifestyle or a high-income purchase, can sway how the court determines your worth.
Posts that suggest use of alcohol, drugs, or partying. Whether you are out with friends or at home with your children, you do not want to be seen engaging in any type of behavior that can be perceived as reckless, dangerous, or illegal.
Dating profiles, evidence of dating others, and provocative photos. Acting as if you are single before your divorce is finalized is frowned upon by the courts. Dating profiles should be avoided at all costs, as well as photos suggesting you are dating others, the inclusion of non-family members in photos with children, and photos of a sexual or provocative nature.
Posting about the court proceedings themselves. Badmouthing the judge or decision-making process online is in bad taste and can affect how the judge determines your character and ability to parent.
Posting anything negative pertaining to your spouse or children. If you are posting any kind of negative comments, whether veiled or blatant, a court may deem time spent with you as a threat to the psychological wellbeing of your child. Also, be aware that your child may have access to these posts at some time in the future, if they aren’t currently active web users. This can affect the relationships in your family for years to come.
Posting anything during time you were scheduled to be with your children. If you have changed your plans and are no longer spending that time with your children, you can easily be viewed as an irresponsible or unreliable caretaker.
Posting anything including your children. Even if you are spending time with your child, innocent activities can easily become a question of health, safety, and privacy. Who you are exposing them to and what kind of foods they are eating are only two examples of details that can be blown out of proportion and sway court proceedings.
Your own social media activity isn’t the only thing you should be aware of. If your spouse is posting anything troubling on social media, bring it up with your attorney. This kind of information may be useful in helping your case, even if your spouse is not violating any agreement.
If you previously tolerated your spouse’s social media presence concerning your children, and it is currently bothering you, you may not be able to change how they are allowed to post. However, if they are making negative or harmful posts, or posting in ways they never did before, you may be able to get an injunction from the court that prevents them from continuing certain types of online activity.
A child’s social media presence may also be used as evidence in family court proceedings. If you are attempting to make a case to the court about their feelings or best interests, be aware of how they present themselves. If possible, you might encourage them to limit their own social media usage while the court sorts out your family’s best interests.
Ultimately, we advise our clients to halt as much social media activity as possible for the duration of the court proceedings. Any kind of post is open to a wide range of interpretation and creates undue risk for your case. Online posts may be interpreted in isolation or spur further investigation. If you are negotiating a divorce or child custody, know that social media can sway the court’s decision. In addition to limiting what you post yourself, it is best not to be posted about, either, so don’t be afraid to tell any friends you are spending time with that you don’t want to be mentioned in any online activity or be the subject of one line photographs until your case is resolved.