Blame the news on Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s possible impending divorce: We’re again thinking about how much information people voluntarily share about themselves on social media channels, and how harmful that can be in a divorce. Even if you feel like a certain Facebook post, tweet, or Instagram post might not be harmful in the moment, it can potentially come back to haunt you months or years down the road.
One of the most popular blog articles we’ve ever done was on the question, “Can I Read My Spouse’s Email And Then Use It In A Divorce Case?” The article’s definitely worth reading if you’re curious about the ins and outs of that question, but the short answer is, “It depends.”
You definitely can’t look through a spouse’s email account without permission on that spouse’s phone or laptop. If you share a laptop, or an incriminating text message comes over a shared Apple device, it’s what’s called “fruit from the poisonous tree,” and it’s up to the judge’s discretion as to whether it can be used.
And it’s quite the dice roll! Some judges might consider it fair game, whereas others might consider evidence obtained this way to reflect poorly on the spouse who is trying to submit it. That’s even if you’re trying to prove adultery, which, as we’ve covered in a previous article, presents its own challenges and caveats.
Social media, however, is a different matter: It’s content that a person chooses to post to communicate certain things about himself or herself. It can get a lot of people in trouble, especially if it’s communicating things that don’t comport with being professional or, in the case of a divorce, a good spouse or parent. Once you’re officially in the process of a divorce, you should be careful about what you post, thinking about what a judge, your spouse, and your spouse’s lawyer would say.
Also, though, remember that deleting something from social media might not be the smartest thing to do. Once something’s up, it’s very easy for someone to take a screenshot of it on a computer. Removing it makes sure someone can’t see it or share it going forward, but someone may already have it tucked away, and if it comes up, you might have to answer two questions about it: Why did you post it? And then, why did you decide to delete it afterward?
You also want to be careful about what other people post on your behalf. On Facebook, for example, someone else could post a party picture with you in it, tag you, and it could end up on your Facebook page even though you don’t want it there. There’s a setting where you can be asked to approve a post before it goes up on your timeline, but it’s not a default setting — you actually have to get into your account, find the setting, and activate it.
And if you’re a person who has a social media team working for you or a business you own, make sure you’re monitoring what goes out on your behalf. You may even consider briefing them to know what’s off limits going forward.
There are some tools that can help you comb through your social media automatically: Semiphemeral, for example, can delete old tweets and direct messages based on certain settings. If you’ve had an account for a long time, you can accumulate quite a number of items to go through, so it’s helpful to have tools like that to manage your account even if you’re not about to enter a life-changing litigation process.
It’s important that you’re honest and upfront with your lawyer if you know anything questionable is out there… that you know your spouse also knows is out there. If a lawyer is prepared to deal with something that doesn’t work in your favor, it can be much better for you in the long run. Otherwise, it could become a surprise that the other side springs on your legal team.
At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we’ve accumulated a lot of experience, going back to a time before social media was a thing, let alone a concern for family lawyers. But we’ve also amassed the experience to know how social media can affect divorce and the outcome of your decree. A lot of managing social media in a divorce comes down to common sense and judgment, but it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself to exercise it. No number of likes is worth what bad social media judgment could potentially cost you