By: Carrie Tortora
Most people have at least one social media account, from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest. If you are contemplating separation and divorce, or are in the middle of it, how should you handle your social media accounts? Should you not post at all? Or should you completely shut down or deactivate your accounts?
The answer is simple: deactivation is not necessary. However, you do need to be mindful of what you post on all of your social media accounts.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you choose to maintain one or more social media accounts before, during or after a divorce:
Keep Your Private Life Private
- Check your privacy settings to ensure that they are appropriately narrowed. Be selective about who can see your posts.
- Do not post anything you would not want to read in court. In particular, avoid posts that contain negative statements or insinuations about your spouse or ex-spouse. This is particularly true if you and your soon-to-be ex have children together. In North Carolina, if you are unable to resolve the issue of custody by private agreement, you may find yourself litigating the issue of custody, which could include having one or more court hearings. One of the issues a judge considers in a custody case is how well the parents are able to get along and put their differences aside for the sake of the children. If a parent has made a mean-spirited comment about the other parent on the internet, regardless of whether the content of the post is true, a judge may assume the posting parent is less likely to be able to get along with the other parent, which could impact the judge’s ultimate decision about custody. In short, while it may be cathartic to vent, it could backfire on you in court. When in doubt, follow the old adage of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.
- Don’t post about your adult activities. This includes drinking alcohol, drug use, or other activities that would call into question your character or judgment. These posts may be innocuous enough in a vacuum, but you may inadvertently set yourself up for unwanted/unwarranted accusations in an alimony or custody lawsuit.
- Be aware of the amount of data someone can obtain from a simple post. For example, if you are in the middle of an alimony trial, and you are claiming you don’t have sufficient funds to pay your ex-spouse alimony, don’t post pictures of your recent vacation to the Caribbean.
- Don’t delete, ever. Be careful about deleting or clearing posts if litigation can reasonably be anticipated. In North Carolina, if a person deletes evidence, including social media information, a judge can draw a negative inference that the deleted material was harmful to that person’s case.
Be Mindful of What Other People Post About You
- Adultery. Social media has become one of the most popular mechanisms to confirm or prove that a spouse is having an affair. Even if you think something is private, if it’s on the internet, chances are your spouse will be able to get the information one way or another.
- Talk to your friends and family about their posts. While you cannot control what those around you do and say, a judge may view you as “guilty by association.” In other words, be mindful of what your friends and family are saying, lest they be deemed a proxy for your opinions.
- Cohabitation. In North Carolina, alimony terminates when the dependent spouse cohabits with another person. If you are living with someone other than your spouse, it may be best to keep the relationship off of social media.
Social media can be a great way to express yourself, but it’s important to remember these simple tips and continue to stay mindful on your social media accounts.
You can’t undo prior posts, but you can be smart about what you do and don’t share moving forward.
Can your cell phone be imaged? Can your spouse obtain a copy of your Facebook archive? What about text messages and emails? In our Podcast, Jaime Davis is interviewed by her interns Grace Massarelli and Olivia Daniels about evidence in child custody cases.