If you find yourself involved in a family law dispute, whether it is over divorce, custody, spousal or child support, or any other related issue, the Internet – social media in particular – can be your worst enemy. If your past or present conduct, activities, interests, attitude, social interactions, physical condition, travel, or beliefs are remotely relevant to the matter at issue, you can rest assured that your adversaries are mining the Internet for any ammunition to use against you. The following are some “dos and don’ts” for your use of the Internet and social media, whether you are currently embroiled in a family law case or you are concerned that you might someday be:
1. DON’T post anything anywhere that you would not want to be associated with your real name and real identity. Period. If you are going to use your real name, do not post things that you would not want your spouse or children seeing. At the same time…
2. DO make all your accounts private, de-friend or de-link from anyone who might be adverse to you, and don’t grant access to anyone who might be loyal to the other party. However…
3. DO assume that anything posted to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, or any other social media site will still be readily accessible to those with an interest in you. The mere fact that you are no longer Facebook “friends” with your estranged spouse does not mean that he or she will not get access to those pictures of you with your paramour, or those nasty things you said about him or her to your children. Social media is commonly accessed informally through mutual acquaintances, and you can be required to download and divulge your social media history – posts, private messages, pictures, everything – in a lawsuit.
4. DON’T disparage your spouse, the other parent, or children on social media, whether directly to them or to anyone else. Especially DON’T disparage your spouse (or your children’s other parent) in a forum that the children can see. Actually, more to the point:
5. DON’T post ANYTHING to social media while you are involved in litigation. Period.
6. DON’T delete anything. Deletion may be considered spoliation, i.e., the wrongful destruction of evidence. When you know or should know that someone else is pursuing a legal claim against you, you may have an obligation to preserve information and documents – including online data – that might be relevant to their claim.
If you are involved in a family dispute and have questions about protecting yourself, please do not hesitate to contact an attorney at The Duff Law Firm (703) 591-7475).