What You Need to Know About Divorce and Social Media Accounts
Social media is an excellent way for families to connect with each other. We know - there’s that curious moment when your mother asks if she can be your Facebook friend. Do you accept knowing all the things she might see that you post? More and more social media is used within families and among friends to display family pictures, discuss family relationships, and a range of everyday topics.
There are risks in using social media, especially if you're going through a divorce. Your spouse may review your social media accounts to show the status of your physical or emotional health, your fitness to be a parent, your financial status, and for other reasons. As a general rule, if you’re going through a divorce, you should stop using, or at least be extremely careful, about using social media.What are the Forms of Social Media?
The original platforms included Facebook and Twitter. Now, some of the common platforms include:
- CafeMom (no CafeDad that we know of)
Social media is used for networking, advertising, blogging, photo sharing, reviews, and many other purposes.Is Social Media Information Admissible in Your Divorce Case?
Generally, social media posts are admissible. There are a few conditions. If someone tries to use a post, they usually need to include the entire post – not just a snippet. You also have the right to challenge the validity of the post. Your spouse shouldn’t be able to produce posts you didn’t write or introduce fake posts. Typically, the post should be printed out. Family judges don't want to spend time logging onto the computer.
There may be strategic considerations regarding when you contest a post. It may be advantageous to challenge a post at trial instead of at a deposition – if you can be relatively sure you have a legitimate challenge to the post's authenticity or a reasonable explanation for the post.Do Lawyers Request Social Media Information in Contested Divorces?
Usually, lawyers ask for everything that may help their client. You should expect your spouse's lawyer to ask for all your recent social media posts and that your lawyer will do the same of your spouse. A family law judge will likely compel that you disclose the posts as long as the request is relevant to your divorce case.
Generally, any information that you produce is considered to be yours. Any information you produce from your social media accounts can normally be used against you.In What Divorce Actions are Social Media Accounts Most Relevant?
Most people try to avoid posting financial information online. Most spouses try, especially once the divorce is filed, not to show the expensive items they’ve purchased. You don’t want to show you have wealth when you’re asking contesting how the property is divided or asking for spousal or child support or when you’re being asked to pay spousal or child support.
Social media information is most likely to be used against you in your child custody case (called conservator cases in Texas). Posts that negatively affect your custody case include:
Negative comments about your spouse and his/her parents or other relatives. Family judges generally like parents who place their child’s welfare first. This includes being able to put aside differences with your spouse/ex-spouse for the sake of your child. Family law judges also like parents who understand their child should have positive relationships with their grandparents and aunts and uncles. The more you seem angry, the more likely a judge will consider that a poor parenting quality.
Doing something that shows you’re a bad parent. You don’t want the judge to see pictures of you using drugs, drinking alcohol, or being intimate. You certainly don’t want the judge to see you doing anything that is illegal.
Spouses will often look for evidence that you are having a relationship with someone before your divorce is final. It’s especially not a good idea to post pictures of you and a boyfriend/girlfriend when you’re supposed to be watching your kids.Understand That Social Media Does Include Messaging
Most social media platforms give the user the ability to message other people. When your spouse asks to see your social media accounts, he/she will also want to see any messages you sent other people. If you talk about any part of your divorce case with anyone else, your spouse can likely see those messages. For example, your spouse may see messages between you and someone you're having an affair with.Social Media and Credibility
Even if your social media posts don’t directly show anything negative, your spouse might use your posts to show you’re not a credible person. Many divorce disputes are based on just your testimony and that of your spouse. If the judge believes your spouse is more honest than you, that’s a major problem.How Can Spouses Protect Their Social Media Accounts?
You should use logins and passwords that are hard to access so your spouse or a family member doesn’t read them. Avoid using birthdays and other well-known family references in your login and password.
You should understand that deleting posts typically doesn't help. There are ways technically-savvy people (also known as expert witnesses) can see what you deleted.
Be especially careful about posting videos. A negative video makes a powerful impression in a courtroom.Get Help From an Experienced Texas Divorce Lawyer Who Understands Practical Issues Like How Social Media Affects Your Case
Many parts of your divorce case are decided based on the details. Anything negative about you may affect custody, property division, and your right or duty to pay support. Our experienced family lawyers explain the little practical issues that can add up to significant outcomes. We also explain how the law affects practical issues such as social media information. At Lyttle Law Firm, our Austin and San Marcos family lawyers guide you through the divorce process. We represent spouses and parents in Travis, Hays, Comal, Williamson, Bell, Caldwell, Burnett, Llano, and Guadalupe Counties. Call us at 512.215.5225 or fill out our online form to make an appointment.