Over the past few years, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social media networks have increasingly been coming up in the divorce process here in California, across the nation and presumably in many countries abroad. This is because a written timeline of someone’s daily life can yield important evidence in divorce and family law cases.
According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, U.S. divorce attorneys are using social media evidence — or seeing it used by the other party — more than 80 percent of the time. Two-thirds of that social media evidence came from Facebook, 14 percent from MySpace, 5 percent from Twitter and 15 percent from other social media sites.
When does social media become a problem in the divorce process? When it provides evidence that tends to show you in a poor light. That could be anything from exposing how often you enjoy a dinner out to revelations about your drinking and drug use. or malicious comments you’ve made about about your ex. Even relatively innocent posts can be used to create a timeline of your activities.
What should you do if you’re involved in a divorce and are active on Facebook or other social media? Be courteous, discreet and prudent.
- Don’t talk to or about your ex online. Your relationship issues need to be discussed in person during the divorce process.
- Avoid answering questions about your relationship status online — call or email curious friends and relatives.
- If you were to post a rant about your ex during an emotional moment, you might exaggerate. Remember, anything false and damaging you say about your ex could expose you to a libel suit.
- Change your privacy settings to limit who can see your posts, who can tag you in posts, and who can check you in at places you visit. Any of these things could cause problems.
- Protect your attorney-client privilege; never communicate with your lawyer via social media.
- Consider closing your social media accounts altogether and reopening them when your divorce is final.
So, what’s the answer to our question? Should you change your Facebook relationship status before your divorce is final? No, you should not make a potential spectacle out of changing your relationship status. If you know how to change your privacy settings so that your relationship status is not visible, do so. If not, leave it as is, for now. Some Facebook updates aren’t worth the hassle.