How to behave properly and protect oneself online during divorce
These guidelines for social media and digital communications during a divorce proceeding can help you avoid making online missteps during your case:
When communicating with the opposing party
Text messages and e-mail communications are frequently used as evidence in divorce or custody trials. When communicating with the opposing party via text or e-mail, take care to keep your tone respectful and avoid name calling or putting anything in writing that you would not want a judge to read. Assume that anything that you put in writing or any voicemail that you leave for the other party could potentially be used in court.
Avoid personally attacking the other party and try to limit your communications to issues directly related to the well-being or care of the children when communicating with the other parent during a custody case.
When communicating with others
Also avoid sending emails, text messages, photos, and videos to friends and family that you would not want the opposing party or a judge to see, because sometimes these communications are “leaked” or otherwise obtained. Be cautious about who you call, as well. Texts, emails, and phone numbers/call history are among the top sources for evidence in a divorce case.
Also, be aware that apps like Snapchat, which are advertised as private and don’t save the messages, can still be used as evidence – taking a photograph or screenshot of the message are common ways of preserving those communications.
On social media
Consider shutting down or suspending your social media accounts during your court proceeding. Whether you are “liking” a post by someone else on Facebook, posting pictures of your weekend and leisure activities, or being “checked-in” by a Facebook friend, realize that having active social media sites makes it more likely that the opposing party can track your actions and who you and your children spend time with.
- If child support or alimony is an issue, social media sites may be used to show details about your lifestyle and how you are spending your money.
- If custody is an issue, social media sites can be used to show what you are doing when the children are in your care and how much time you are spending with your children.
If you do not shut down or suspend your social media sites during a divorce or custody proceeding, then you should review and update the privacy settings for the social media sites and applications that you use.
Don’t assume that because you have blocked the opposing party from your social media profiles that that person is not receiving or being informed of the information that you share on social media.
- Mutual friends or family members may convey information about you to the opposing party.
- The opposing party or another individual may create a fake profile to try to access information that you have posted on social media sites.
- The opposing party’s attorney may request that you provide information about what you have posted to social media sites before and during your case.
Clean up your social media accounts
If you are in the initial stages of a family law case, you may want to review your past posts on social media sites and delete some of these posts or photographs. While there is no guarantee that working to clean up your social media history will prevent the opposing party from obtaining the information you previously shared on these sites, it may at least make that information harder to find.
Don’t use online dating websites
Be careful about using online dating websites or applications during your family law proceeding. What you put on your dating profile and who you interact with on these dating websites or applications might potentially be relevant if custody is an issue in your case.
Use caution in posting comments on online blogs or websites
It is possible that the opposing party or the other attorney might conduct an online search to try to find information about all of your activity on the Internet. If you are posting a great deal of comments on a site regarding a controversial topic (such as legalization of illegal drugs or gun control), there is a possibility that those types of comments may be used by the opposing party in a contested family law case.
Don’t discuss your case using digital communications with anyone except your attorney
Do not discuss your case or the outcome of any family law court appearances (good or bad) on social media sites or in texts or emails to friends and family. These types of posts or communications might be obtained by the other party and could potentially be admissible at trial or in future hearings during your case.
Change all passwords and protect your phone
See our chapters on protecting your online privacy and phone tracking for details on securing your accounts from prying eyes.
Don’t violate your partner’s privacy
Don’t try to hack into your partners email, social media, or other personal accounts. Don’t install GPS location tracking applications on their phone or car, and don’t place keystroke tracking software on their computer.
Discuss these issues with your attorney
Your attorney should discuss issues surrounding digital communications and social media with you at the beginning of your case. Make sure to disclose any concerns you have about your own or your spouse’s online activities. If you are unsure about a digital communication, behavior or activity, it is wise to check with your attorney before doing anything.