Social Media: What Every Client Should Know During a Divorce
Research suggests that Facebook is mentioned in nearly 90% of all divorces. Some sources suggest the number is closer to a third or 40%. Either way, the fact is that Facebook and other social media sites are quickly becoming a centerpiece in divorces and child custody or support cases. In an increasingly online society, much of our social reality is dictated by and displayed on the Internet. It only makes sense that people often display their dirty laundry with little thought, even when going through legal battles. Nevertheless, here are a few tips for those going through a divorce.
Who knows your password?
Many spouses may know each other’s login credentials for banking, credit card accounts, email accounts, and even social media sites. Likewise, some people write these down in secure places where their spouses could easily locate them. While this can serve as a great convenience in open and trusting relationships, when the marriage begins to go south, people should immediately change all passwords and consider all social media activities to ensure their spouse cannot gain access, view e-mails, or interfere in personal matters.
Likewise, since individuals who are going through divorces are often forced to move out of their home or choose to stay with family members, if one leaves behind access information it could be very difficult to remember these login credentials later, let alone change them. Further, remember that private communications to lawyers, family members, and so forth, will become the source of great turmoil if they fall into the wrong hands. This also applies to anyone involved in extramarital affairs.
What story do your pictures tell?
Every day millions of images are posted to Facebook, Instagram, and other sites. Many of these are very inappropriate. Pictures may show a person having a harmless dinner with an old high school friend. However, when there are accusations of infidelity, those pictures can be spun by an lawyer to make the person appear to be engaging in multiple affairs. Worse yet, imagine a female divorcee posting photographs of her small children spending time with her and another man. One can see how this may look to a court. The same is true of images depicting alcohol abuse, partying, late nights at the club, etc. While all of these may be harmless, they can greatly skew a judge’s opinion of the person who carelessly displays such images.
Many divorce clients have been caught in affairs or worse, due to unwise use of social media. In fact, in one case a woman allowed her 2-year-old daughter to play with an empty can of smokeless tobacco (“dip”). She and a boyfriend were teaching the child to “pack” the can. As funny as it was for them, the judge who watched the video was far from amused by the mother introducing tobacco products to an extreme minor. The judge was further unmoved by the mother’s assurances that the can was empty. In her decision, the judge found that a mother who would deliberately create an environment where tobacco use is encouraged and rewarded was borderline abuse, given the child’s extreme youth. This combined with other factors led the judge to award the father temporary custody, which ultimately led to a host of other negative decisions by the judge.
Learn more or delete it all
Many people only think about pictures taken on their handheld devices, such as smart phones, tablets, or laptops. However, they forget that sites like Facebook have very sensitive security features that some just do not understand. In fact, some sources estimate that nearly 13 million users never change privacy settings at all. Do you recall when you first downloaded that Facebook application to your shiny new smartphone? Do you remember the little window that popped up asking you for permission to access your contacts and photographs? Well, this is because every time you snap a photo with your phone, those pictures are shared with Facebook and made available for posting. If you have had Facebook for a long time, you may have unwittingly uploaded thousands of images and videos over the years. These may be listed under albums, profile photos, or mobile uploads. Are you confident that you can manage all privacy settings carefully enough to avoid problems?
Even when you start clearing old photographs, do not forget that even images that do not show up under your “photos” tab may still be visible in your timeline for many years. Even more troubling, consider photographs in which you are “tagged” by others. These are photographs that other people have taken and posted, which may include you. They have simply included a digital tag so that people know who is in the photograph and so that you can see it on your “wall.”
Ultimately, if you are not 100% confident in your ability to sterilize your social media, you should consider deleting your account, at least temporarily, the moment you contemplate a divorce. It is very likely your lawyer will practically demand this step early in your consultation. And if you need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to skilled Orlando Amy E. Goodblatt for an initial consultation on your case.