Social media: The do’s and don’ts in Family Law
The Pew Research Center estimates that almost 70% of American adults use some form of social media, and that roughly 75 million of them check their social networks every day. With those kinds of statistics, it is clear that social media has become a part of our daily lives, and an increasingly significant factor in divorce and custody disputes.
If you post to Facebook or Instagram, or if you Tweet, blog, post to YouTube, or use any other form of social media, you need to be aware that whatever you write or post (or anything in your history or timeline) will likely become known to the world during your family law case and could actually be the evidence that “creates” the dispute. Remember the “DaddyOfFive” Youtuber whose postings of alleged abusive pranks on his kids resulted in the mother obtaining emergency custody of their children? Your online material may be used to embarrass, humiliate or hurt you, or to compromise your legal claims and interests. Photographs, videos, and comments by you or your friends can be discovered and used. Your passwords, account credentials or other log in information is not confidential or privileged information, and your lawyer likely will not be able to keep login credentials from being disclosed if demanded from the other side in litigation.
Because of this risk, it is important to know the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of social media. The North Carolina State Bar requires a lawyer to advise his/her clients about information on social media if the information and postings on social media are relevant and material to the client’s representation. A lawyer may advise a client to remove information on social media if doing so is not illegal or does not result in the information be destroyed or deleted.
First, the “Do’s”…
- Close your Twitter account. Do not delete the contents; only close the account. Do not tweet. Regardless of privacy settings, those tweets you think are private between you and another individual are not.
- Check your spouse’s Twitter feed. Download or copy any posts that could be potential evidence. You may not pretend to be someone else and follow your spouse.
- Close your Instagram account.
- Stop using snapchat.
- Be aware of any photos, videos or images that others may take of you and post on their social media accounts. A photo or video of your partying with your hot, new boyfriend at 4 a.m. when you were supposed to be at home watching the kids may not be on your account, but it could be on his or another friend’s account.
- Stop using your Facebook account. Do not delete the timeline, the contents or any post. Deleting information is potentially destroying evidence that you have a duty to preserve.
- Check your spouse’s Facebook wall and postings. Download or copy any posts that could be potential evidence. You may not pretend to be someone else so that you can friend your spouse. However, if a third party is your spouse’s friend, and that third party has access to your spouse’s timeline, wall and/or postings, then with proper authentication any information discovered may be useful.
- De-select notifications and locations for any “friend finder” sites like Four Square.
- DEACTIVATE or close your social accounts. Deactivate does not mean delete. DO NOT delete or destroy any accounts, account history, postings, writings, video, or anything else you may have posted online.
- Avoid posting anything on social media altogether is the best thing to do, but if you must, then do….
- Maintain the highest private setting possible. For all online accounts, you should immediately verify that all your settings are on PRIVATE (the highest setting possible) and that nothing is public.
- Write or post only items that are not damaging in any way, shape or form to you or your case. If you elect to use social media, make sure that your attorney knows and approves all posts.
After consulting with your attorney, if you decide to keep your accounts open, then please follow these recommendations:
- Allow anyone to become a “friend” on a website like Facebook unless you are absolutely sure you know that person.
- Post any photographs or videos of yourself (or enable others to “tag” you).
- Write or disclose anything about yourself, your personal or professional life, your friends, family, spouse, or any other third party that you will regret when it is displayed in front of a judge, or for which you would have to apologize for, or which can be interpreted as an “admission” against your interest, or anything else that can cast you in a negative light. (Again, remember “DaddyOfFive”).
- Send emails, texts, posts or make any written statements regarding your case to anyone except your lawyers and our consultants.
- Participate in blogs, chat-rooms, or message boards.
While social media can be a quick and useful way to communicate with family and friends, you need to be fully informed about the consequences of using social media. Regardless of the precautions you may take, your online presence can provide a treasure trove of information to be used against you in domestic litigation. You should expect that any text you send, or any message, photo, video you post will be used against you in court. For further information or if you need a family – divorce attorney or lawyer in Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Morrisville (NC) visit our website: www.wardfamilylawgroup.com or directly contact us.