Most family law attorneys counsel clients at the outset of a divorce case to cease social media usage.
One of the first places lawyers go to investigate the opposing party in a divorce is social media.
From a legal standpoint, very little positive impact can come from social media use during divorce. Therefore, any use will pose a risk.
8 things you should do about social media use during divorce.
1. Take a social media holiday.
Stop posting on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram while going through a divorce. Remove the apps from your devices so that they do not continue to collect information about you (see below on “checking-in”). However, do not delete or change anything about your account. You do not want to be accused of spoiling evidence relevant to the case.
2. Turn off the check-in feature.
If you decide to forego Step 1 and not remove the apps from your devices, modify your usage. Do not check yourself in for events or locations. Change your settings so that the sites cannot check you in automatically. One of FamilyDocket’s lawyer clients used social media check-ins to prove that a father was being dishonest about why he missed the drop off for a weekend exchange. His social media activity showed he was at an amusement park with the children when he was supposed to be at the exchange location.
3. Be mindful of pictures and videos of both you and your children.
Photos and videos are easily distributed through social media and therefore easy to find. Another of our clients represented a mother claiming the father of her children was dealing drugs. The father firmly denied this allegation. However, his social media posts contained pictures of drugs. The court granted sole custody to the mother and the court ordered any possession of the child take place at a supervised facility.
Pictures can also be used to show behavior that can hurt your case: being out late, overuse of alcohol, or associating with people who may be portrayed as bad influences on you or your children. If you are out with friends, be mindful of what pictures you are in, and ask friends not to post them on social media.
4. Do not allow friends to tag you in posts.
Change your settings so that you cannot be tagged in posts or photos without your permission. You can’t control what others post, but you can control what they easily link back to your profile. These can be a way for lawyers to show violations of orders such as restricting alcohol use.
5. Understand if your children’s settings allow tags and check-ins as well.
Teens and pre-teens are now using their own devices and have their own social media accounts. I don’t like the check-in feature for children for a lot of reasons, including their safety, so I recommend disabling those regardless. From a divorce/custody standpoint, your ex could use your child’s 9 PM check-in at a restaurant on your night of possession as evidence that you have them out too late or are not supervising them appropriately.
6. Do not use dating apps.
Dating is also an area ripe for problems during a divorce or custody battle. If you decide to date, be discreet and avoid dating apps which can be easily discoverable. Your ex’s attorney could use the content to hurt your case.
7. Delete any applications that track your location.
If you previously used any family tracking or location apps such as Life360, you want to disable them and consider whether you should also disable them on your children’s devices as well. Snap Chat has a new feature called Snap Map that allows the user to share their location with all friends or a smaller group of friends. If you or your children use Snap Chat, operate it in Ghost Mode, which means your location is not discoverable.
8. Unlink your apple and television accounts from that of your (ex)spouse and your children.
While these are not technically social media sites, information can flow to your ex that you may prefer to remain private. For example, photos you take can be shared across devices, including devices belonging to your children, through features like iCloud. Others who share your apple ID have access to your movies, television shows, music and apps.. Children with mobile devices who go back and forth between two homes can have apps downloaded automatically on their devices which are now in plain view of both parents. If you download a dating app, for example, this could automatically download on your child’s device and be seen by your ex. Instead, use a different email address to set up their accounts. You can still monitor your children’s usage by controlling the account credentials and payment information.