If you are going through a divorce or involved in a child custody issue, you should be mindful about how you use social media and what other people post about you. Photos and comments that appear on sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and others could become evidence in your divorce or custody action and could have an unintended consequence or a negative impact on the outcome of your case. When it comes to social media usage during divorce or child custody disputes, less is generally more.
What types of social media communications can impact a divorce case or custody action?
It is important to be mindful that anything you put out in the public realm could potentially be seen by your spouse/coparent, opposing counsel, and the judge who will decide your case. Opposing counsel can request a court order to make all of your electronic communications available to the proceedings. This will include your posts that are visible to the public, your posts that are visible to selected people, and posts from third parties on which you are tagged. Even instant messages, which you send back and forth via a social media site with other parties, are discoverable by the other side, as are your texts and emails.
What should I avoid putting on social media?
Do not post anything about your divorce or custody case or your spouse or coparent on any social media site. There should be no denigration or discussion of your spouse/coparent, and no postings about the pleadings, paperwork, attorneys, or other parties connected to your case. Also, avoid posting detailed information about yourself, your social life, and your current living situation. Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid or substantially limit social media use while your case is pending.
How might social media photos or posts impact my divorce or child custody case?
Social media photos, posts, and private communications may become evidence in your divorce or child custody matter. Your conduct on social media may be compared to your or your spouse’s statements about day-to-day life, which could support or undermine your or your spouse’s claims and impact your divorce or custody case.
For instance, if a person moves to modify a financial support order and alleges a hardship in making the support payments, that person’s claims would be undermined if there were photos online of the person traveling to exotic locations or making large purchases.
Private communications with other social media users may have to be disclosed as part of your divorce or child custody matter. These communications could be used to show the author’s thoughts or mental state and plans that were being made at a given time. For instance, if you suspect that your spouse is having a relationship with another person, our family attorneys at Ruel Ruel Burns Feldman & Britt can obtain these private communications in an effort to determine the truth.
Photos posted on social media could be used to undermine where your spouse was or what your spouse was doing at a given time; money available to your spouse for such activities; or other claims made by your spouse or coparent. For example, if your spouse tells you that he or she is no longer consuming alcohol, your attorney can review your spouse’s public social media presence and can request through discovery the private portions of your spouse’s social media usage, including photos, communications, and the like. These discovery requests assist you in determining the truth of your spouse’s statements to allow you to make informed decisions in your divorce and custody case. They also can be used to undermine your spouse’s credibility and statements.
How can I control what third parties post?
There are several proactive steps you can take to limit potentially harmful posts by third parties. Adjust your own privacy settings so that you cannot be tagged by anyone on social media. Ask your friends and family to avoid including mentions or photos of you in their social posts, and if a concerning post comes to your attention, you may choose to reach out to the person who posted it and ask him or her to remove it.
Can you delete potentially harmful social media posts?
Once the opposing party’s attorney requests access to your social media and other digital accounts, you are prohibited from deleting any posts or messages, since they are considered evidence in a legal proceeding. Therefore, it’s best to steer clear of making potentially harmful social posts in the first place.
The family law attorneys at Ruel Ruel Burns Feldman & Britt serve as trusted advisors and represent clients in divorce and child custody matters in Connecticut. If you are considering a divorce or seeking a modification or appeal of your divorce orders, contact our family law attorneys at 860-206-9096 or online.