How Social Networking Can Affect Your Divorce Case
Social Networking is everywhere nowadays. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Four Square inundate our everyday conversation. Nearly every store, restaurant, and business has a presence on the Web. Our children, parents, grandparents, and even pets have Facebook pages.
We find ourselves “checking in” every time we hit a restaurant with our friends or go to a baseball game with family. We make ourselves and our lives available at every turn on these sites and sometimes, we forget the ramifications.
When you’re going through a divorce, you must keep in mind that nearly everything that you do has the potential to be scrutinized. Fair or not, once you are in the web of the legal system, your life isn’t always your own. Freedoms that you exercised previously may be questioned by your spouse, your attorney, or the judge. One out of your 583 Facebook friends may not have the best intentions when reviewing your page, or your privacy settings may not be all they’re cracked up to be. More and more lately, social networking sites are a major player in divorce and custody matters and, regardless of the warnings, clients are still feeling victimized every time printouts of their pages are presented for examination. If you choose to continue to participate in social media while you’re going through a divorce, you must be cautious of each and every thing you post.
Many parents require that their children be “friends” with them on Facebook, to monitor their social media use. Always remember that if you can see your children’s activities, they can see yours. Posting about legal matters, your spouse, or your private life in a forum open to your children will almost always result in reprimand if discovered. The number one goal should always be to protect your children from sensitive information, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that when you post items for your friends to see, your children are privy to it as well.
Additionally, be cautious of what actions others can take that show up on your social media pages. A common example of this is the Facebook “tag.” Here’s the hypothetical: You go out for drinks with your friend Ashley, who’s having an awful day. She checks in to the bar, listing you as her drinking buddy with the comment “Drinking until we can’t see straight.”
Depending on your privacy settings, Ashley’s entire post—including your location and activities—can be seen by your network, even though you didn’t actively post a single thing! Your children can see that; so can your family members and your spouse’s family members. Even, at times, the general public could know all about your night of margarita madness. Whether or not you had one drink or ten with Ashley that night, you are going to be guilty by association if it is later brought up in court.
The lesson here? Social media is a wonderful way to connect with family and friends. It’s the modern avenue when it comes to supporting local businesses, keeping up on the news, and widening your social circle. When you’re going through a divorce, however, it can also be your spouse’s free private investigator. Be aware of exactly what your privacy settings allow others to see. Be cognizant of the fact that your children are connected to you through this network and will be able to see every negative thing you say about their other parent.
Understand that once something is on the Internet, it’s there forever. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and not all of those words are positive. Think before you post.
Written by: Michele Giordano is a family law attorney at Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge's Grand Rapids office, where she focuses her practice on divorce, post-divorce, custody, guardianship, and adoption. Reach her directly at [email protected] or 616-458-8308. Photo: tungphoto