Where does social media fit in your divorce?
Social media has brought people together in ways that our grandparents (maybe even our parents) never would have dreamed possible. You can now pull up a search engine or social networking site and find out everything from where your high school sweetheart lives now to what businesses your former neighbor frequents in her new town. You can have a virtual friendship with someone across the state or across the globe. Networking can be an invaluable business tool, and online sites like Facebook and LinkedIn help forge relationships that could have career-changing benefits.
Social media definitely has its downsides, though, and they are seldom as apparent as they are in the family law context. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers estimates that more than 80 percent of 2012 divorce cases involved some form of social media-derived evidence in the form of posts, instant messages, photos, video, "check-ins," tagged posts or friend lists. That number is likely to rise as new networking platforms like Google+, Friendster and a revamped Myspace become more popular.
You may think that it is vitally important during a divorce, child custody dispute, child support fight or spousal maintenance (better known as "alimony") struggle to be able to rely on your friends, both in-person and online. You may even assume that your social media's privacy settings will keep your posts out of view of the general public. Odds are, though, you'd be wrong. Even if you keep things as "private" as possible, all it takes is one mutual friend between you and your spouse, and your entire electronic signature could become part of the court record, and might even end up costing you your house, your property or, worst of all, your children.
Protecting you from yourself
There are ways to protect the "real" you from the "virtual" you, however.
You could consider taking a vacation from social media until any legal issues are resolved by deactivating your account. This will keep you from falling victim to a momentary lapse in judgment that has you venting your spouse's dirty laundry to everyone in your social network. It will also prevent well-meaning friends from inadvertently "tagging" you in posts that could have a detrimental effect on your case.
If, on the other hand, you are confident in your willpower, you could carefully continue contributing to your online networks, being cognizant of the possibility that anything you say, any pictures posted of you and any location "check-ins" might be viewed by the attorneys and judges involved in your divorce, custody, maintenance (alimony) or other family-related legal case. You would have to avoid the temptation to – even if what you say is actually true – express frustration at your former spouse or at the situation, since your words could possibly be misconstrued or introduced as evidence against you.
Are you involved in a family-related dispute? Want to learn more about the impact social media can have on the legal proceedings? If you need help with a divorce, custody dispute, support matter or other legal issue, speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area.