Did you post an update about yourself or share a photo on Facebook today? If you are currently separated or going through a divorce you could be putting your future at risk.
At a time when you are in over your head with all the confusion, pain, fear and anger that come along with the chaos of divorce, it’s quick and easy to turn to family members, friends and other connections on Facebook for emotional support and validation that you’ve been wronged and deserve so much better. However, you could end up sabotaging yourself without even realizing it until much later.
Since so many people post on Facebook as if they were chatting with a close friend or describing something in their journal, many lawyers find that these confessions are much more revealing than what typically emerges from the usual legal discovery process. Divorce lawyers have discovered that the kind of candid information and photos shared on Facebook is often exactly the evidence they need so that their clients can negotiate for a more favorable settlement or prevail in divorce court.
“An overwhelming 81% of the nation’s top divorce attorneys say that they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). Facebook holds the distinction of being the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence with 66% citing it as their primary source.”
Although most people realize that it’s far too risky to share photos of their thrill-inducing extra-marital affairs or scout around openly on Facebook for their next potential love interest, there are many other types of information online that can cause trouble during separation and divorce.
Updates and photos shared on Facebook can reveal details that can be used against you or your spouse in many ways:
Contested custody- Photos and updates can be used to determine how much time and what activities the children are participating in during the time they are with each parent. Erratic parental behaviors such as drinking, drug use, cursing rants or threats posted to Facebook can be used by a divorce lawyer to show that a parent is not behaving in ways that are a good role model for their children.
Financial ability to pay- Does your spouse claim that they are unemployed and barely scraping by yet just posted that they just picked up the tab for several rounds of wings and beers with their friends? Is your spouse self-employed and able to hide their actual business income in a variety of ways? If your spouse wrote down on their sworn financial affidavit that they have barely any discretionary income yet just shared pictures of their recent ‘business trip’ to the Bahamas or brand new SUV, your divorce lawyer may be able to use this evidence to call into question your spouse’s financial credibility.
Trash talking about your spouse, the attorneys or judge- Letting off steam on Facebook about how your spouse is holding out for more money, your attorney hasn’t done their job and the judge has it in for you may feel good for the moment but become a problem later on when you’re appearing in front of them again.
Where you are and when- Timelines and posts that share what you were doing and when can be exactly the kind of evidence your spouse’s lawyer is looking for to show location and time discrepancies when you are being questioned in a deposition or testifying at court about your activities, work hours, location, parenting time, who you were with and other critical details.
So how can you protect yourself from the fall-out from sharing on Facebook?
You can try to get around the risks of having your information on Facebook used against you by changing your privacy settings to restrict who is allowed to see your profiles and pages. Although this would seem to be a great strategy, divorce lawyers and private investigators often find a way around this by viewing your friends’ pages, searching there for photos and information about you.
The most effective way to prevent your personal information from being listed in divorce court as Exhibits A, B and C is to get off of Facebook altogether until your divorce is completely over. If this is not an option for you, it’s best to restrict your privacy settings as much as possible and only share information and pictures that you wouldn’t mind showing to your minister, grandma and the judge.