Social media is everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr. It allows us to share our good times, and marshal the support of our friends in hard times. There are few times harder than when you're going through a divorce. It's only natural to vent your frustrations about your estranged spouse. But it can be a very bad idea.
Unfortunately, the documentation and publication of both good and bad times on social media can come back to haunt you, with a devastating impact on the outcome of your divorce, support, or custody matter.
Just because you've blocked your ex from Facebook doesn't mean you can post vicious status updates or pictures of you and your new sweetie with impunity. All it takes is for a mutual "friend" to take and share a screenshot to override whatever privacy settings you have in place. In addition, there are much newer, higher-tech ways for your spouse—or your spouse's lawyer—to find out what you've been saying and what you're up to.
One such tool is a social media aggregator called Trial Drone. This tool may be used by your spouse's attorney to search social media for a certain date and time, revealing that you were somewhere, or with someone, you shouldn't have been. The application can let someone monitor you, or someone close to you, through online activity, check-ins, and status updates. Trial Drone also allows a user to map your social media contacts, revealing relationships you might have preferred to keep quiet.
In addition, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to discern whether your spouse has installed some form of spyware on your computer that allows him or her to follow your movements online. They can even track what you write with Key Stroke software that allows them to see all that you have written. They can also check your search history or any save log-in information on your computer. This information may or may not be admissible in court, but that doesn't mean you want your spouse or your spouse's attorney to have it.
Even if your spouse's attorney isn't using an app like Trial Drone or spyware to keep tabs on you, there are equally effective, if less cutting-edge, ways to view your social media action. One such way is through the discovery process. During a deposition, or in written questions (interrogatories) or the request for production of documents, your spouse's attorney may ask for information about your online activity that leads to the revelation of assets, relationships, or behavior you've been hiding. Courts have held that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy on social media, so your activity should be discoverable in a divorce.
And beware of friend requests from people you don't know. It may be perfectly okay for your spouse's attorney, or the attorney's agent, such as a paralegal whose name you may not recognize, to send you a friend request, so long as they use their own name and don't create a false identity for doing so. Once you accept, they have access to your posts.
And what kinds of things might your spouse's attorney find, through low- or high-tech means? Pictures of you with a new squeeze months before your divorce was filed, a status update bragging about your new Harley when you're claiming to be too poor to pay spousal maintenance; a dating profile representing you as single and child-free, at the same time you're trying to get custody of your kids.
We live our lives online these days, but that online life can cost you dearly in your divorce, whether in terms of spousal maintenance or custody and parenting time. The best way to protect yourself is to post as little as possible, consider staying off dating sites altogether, and ask friends not to post about you either.
Want to learn more about how to protect your very real divorce from the consequences of your digital life? Contact us for a consultation, so that we can help you evaluate your risks and mitigate any problems that may exist—and learn what your spouse has been up to online in a way that is legal, ethical, and admissible in court.