There are some very important issues involving the sharing of information via the internet through social media and social networking websites. Your pending divorce should only heighten your awareness of internet-based activities involving you and your family.
First of all, always protect your privacy online. Most of us are comfortable using email for work and for informal communications. Because email is used so frequently, it is easy to send personal information in an email without reflecting on what is being sent and where it could end up. Never provide your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) — such as your social security number, birth date, mother’s maiden name, or banking information — in an email message. Don’t give away anyone else’s PII either. Criminals use PII to exploit and steal identities. So think before you send and always remember that unencrypted email is the postcard any carrier can read and forward.
When we refer to “social media” we are including emails, online photographs and videos, social networking posts and comments, blogs and microblogs, tweets, and the like. If you use social media to communicate and network — using MySpace, for example, to post pictures of your recent vacation in the Carribean — be very cautious about your content and the messages you share. You are publishing information that may be used against you — images and messages posted on social networking sites are strong evidence in family law courts. Opposing parties and their attorneys routinely look to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, and other social media forums to gather evidence for use in court.
A divorce means you will be under heightened scrutiny, that’s a given. Social media evidence will be gathered and used to undermine your credibility with the judge and any child custody evaluator. If you use social media to network, what you post affects your reputation and, once posted, the information may never go away. Evidence gathered from social media may be used to demonstrate that you are an irresponsible parent. Social media evidence may even be used to demonstrate perjury. If you post a contradiction to a statement you made previously in your case, then the opposing party will exploit that opportunity to establish your lack of credibility and propensity for untruthfulness.
Think carefully of the legal ramifications of posting anything about yourself and exercise discretion with all forms of social media. Be very cautious about posting any photographs and don’t discuss your case, the judge, the opposing party, or the attorneys. When you do comment online, carefully choose your words and refrain from using expletives. If you haven’t enabled your privacy settings, then do so and set them high. Consider logging off all social media websites while your family law case is pending. (Even if you de-friended the other party, a mutual friend may be filtering your information to opposing party or opposing counsel.) You should search your own social networking sites to heighten your awareness of your online vulnerabilities. Make sure to share that information with your lawyer.
Remember — anything you post can be used against you in a family law court. The reciprocal is also true, and evidence gathered by you and your attorney may be used against the opposing party. If you know the other party is using social media to network, inform your attorney of those details. If you observe potentially useful information about opposing party, then relay your findings to your lawyer as the evidence could have a significant impact in your case. But do not, under any circumstances, cyberstalk, harass, or cyberspy on the other party.