It seems like social media platforms are everywhere in today's digital world. In these days of COVID-19 isolation occasioned by state shutdowns and extreme social distancing, the collective comfort of friends and followers promised by platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and others has provided the much-needed social contact we all crave. It's also true, however, that for people enmeshed in divorce proceedings or even the specter of a future divorce, your spouse's attorney can use your own social media involvement as evidence against your interests.
Around the world, the trend to use social media technology results in about 2.77 billion users. In some cases, people seem addicted to social media platforms and often spend hours online. That addiction can make spouses feel unconnected and jealous. And those feelings will color actions in divorce cases.
Studies have shown that suspicious spouses turn to social media platforms to confirm and/or get illumination on their doubts. The platforms provide easy access to what users believe is private information. Today, such information is now public for all to see — and to draw their own conclusions.
How safe are your photos, texts, and emails?
Social media has complicated the type of communications available in divorce discovery. If you save personal items like photographs, videos, and even private documents to the Cloud for storage, your spouse may have access to them. Such items can be used against you in a court of law in a contested divorce.
Your internet browsing history is also legally shareable information. Your GPS history can prove harmful to your case. Your emails, texts, and photos are fodder for accusations of adultery, divorce, or an abusive relationship.
So, what can you do to shield yourself?
You must first understand that anything you publish to the outside world on social media outlets is not as secure as you think it is. So, a word to the wise: be very careful about how you use social media and limit what you post there. People seem inclined to post minute details about their daily lives on social media. Doing so makes personal details of your life open to the public. And open to the public means the details of your life are open to the subjective interpretation of the viewer, including your spouse and your spouse's attorney.
As a practical matter, there are steps you can take to protect the information about you on-line. Change your passwords often and make sure they are not easily guessed. Remember, your spouse knows birthdays, anniversaries, and other intimate personal knowledge which will make it easy for your spouse to guess passwords. Make your passwords random and commit them to memory. Writing them down and leaving them in your wallet or desk drawer is not safe from prying eyes. Of course, in a trial, the court can order parties to reveal passwords.
You should also check your security settings to take as much control as possible of who sees your information. Remember, though, that information you share online can be shared by others without your knowledge or permission. That makes it discoverable by divorce attorneys, too, and they can use it to hurt your case. Studies show that Facebook plays a role in about 30% of divorces. In fact, to prepare for a potential divorce, do a web search on yourself. Find out what Google has online about you. Forewarned is forearmed. And you may be surprised by what you find.
Here are a few more suggestions:
- Never post or discuss the particulars about your divorce case on social media or in texts or emails.
- Be circumspect about everything you post. Innocuous photos once removed from the circumstances in which they actually occurred can make even innocent moments hurtful to your case.
- Do not release your feelings online. In the heat of the moment, it may be satisfying to let out frustrating feelings about your spouse but maligning someone in a public forum is destructive to your case.
- Do not post about large purchases or expensive vacations. It may be fun to boast to friends about these things, but they are clues to financial matters that are better left out of the public space.
- Be vigilant about posts others make that tag you. In the wrong hands, photos showing you “partying hearty” can make you look like an unfit parent or unfaithful spouse.
- Carefully catalog all digital interactions between you and your spouse. Keep the information updated. Such communications may be helpful to your cause.
- When in doubt, don't post. Social media posts have long lives, and they can add up to serious impacts on public perceptions of you.
The rules that apply to all evidence that may appear before the court applies as well to social media content. Social media content is discoverable by both parties and is admissible in court. That is true even if you block posts about you. If you try to delete social media posts when you are in divorce proceedings, the court may consider it a serious breach and hold it against you for obstruction or destruction of evidence. You may adjust privacy settings as discussed above but no other changes lest the court find them questionable.
Besides, even permanently deleted information can be resurrected via the latest forensic technologies.
Considering Using VPN Services?
VPN services help keep online activity safe from prying by disguising where your computer, phone, or other mobile device is when you visit sites. It also encrypts the information you send over the internet so that it is unreadable if someone intercepts your stream. In short, VPNs help you regain privacy online. VPNs protect you en route from one point to another and, while the VPN is active, no one can see what apps you use or sites you visit. The best VPNs make no logs of your activity.
Still, when it comes to divorce, it is still good practice to remain circumspect about all online activity, especially on blurbs you leave on social media.
If you are divorcing and need the help of an experienced attorney, please call our office at (504) 561-8700 to schedule your initial consultation.