Social media is ubiquitous, but anyone going through a divorce is well advised to turn off the cell phone. At the click of a button, social media offers a variety of networking opportunities, but in a divorce every word and image posted can ultimately affect the outcome of the case, and even harmless posts can do damage when taken out of context.
Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos – these can all be used in a divorce case. People think they can dodge the danger by simply blocking an estranged partner and all of his or her friends, but that does not work. Social media is never private. “Posting anything on social media is like standing on your front lawn and shouting it,” says Attorney Aaron Abramowitz of Trope and Trope law firm of Los Angeles. “Blocking someone does not work because he or she can still log in under a friend’s account, or make a fake account, or get someone to un-friend every person the estranged partner knows,” Abramowitz explained. “The Internet is written in pen, not pencil.”
Moreover, deleting a post may make things worse because it may be destroying evidence. One divorce lawyer tells her clients to “bite their tongues” now because “once it’s out there, it’s out there.”
Just because a party does not post something does not mean it can’t be held against him or her. Social media can be used against a person, even if he or she did not post the picture. For example, a 15-year-old who posts a picture on his Facebook page chugging a beer at a party might be used against the parent who was “on the clock” as evidence of unfit parenting.
Social media posts taken out of context can be put together in a way that portrays someone in a negative light. For example, a Twitter rant filled with words someone uses in real life can become problematic, even if said in jest. “Your words are your words,” Abramowitz said.
But it’s not just out-of-context or one-off remarks that are the problem. For example, the posts showing a lavish vacation may make it hard for someone to argue hardship in a support case.
An increasing number of attorneys scour social media accounts for evidence that can be used in furtherance of their clients’ goals. Even the maximum number of privacy settings on social media accounts are never truly private because of the numerous run-around tactics that attorneys and a former spouse may use to access information, says Lisa E. McKnight, P.C.
One precaution is to deactivate the account for the duration of the divorce action. It may be difficult stop for a time, but in a divorce the benefits of keeping still are self-evident. Social media may tell the wrong story.