As you may already know, most divorce lawyers in the state of California will advise you to avoid Facebook – and in fact, to avoid social media altogether – during the divorce process. You are about to learn the reasons why.
What you may not know is that your Cerritos divorce lawyer may also advise you against deleting your Facebook page and your other social media accounts during a divorce.
WHY SHOULD YOU AVOID POSTING ONLINE DURING A DIVORCE?
If you are divorcing in California, planning to divorce, or anticipating that your spouse is planning to divorce you, you should refrain from posting anything on social media until your divorce is finalized.
Whatever you post online could be scrutinized, twisted, and used against you.
Of course, almost everyone relies on technology far more than we did even twenty years ago. Today, millions share videos, pictures, and personal details on sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
The impact of these social media platforms – on all of us – has been nothing less than revolutionary. Attorneys, courts, and state legislatures are now dealing with legal questions about social media that did not even exist prior to the 21st century.
HOW ARE THE COURTS MAKING USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA?
Criminal prosecutors in all fifty states, for example, regularly peruse the online accounts of criminal suspects and their accomplices for status updates and photographs that may be used against defendants in criminal cases.
Attorneys for the defendants in personal injury cases seek online evidence that an injury victim is not as injured as that victim claims.
And in divorce cases in California, the evidence gleaned from social media accounts is typically used to discredit a spouse’s honesty and character.
Dean Tong, speaking for the American Board of Forensic Examiners, warns: “I can tell you any post on social media can be introduced into evidence on a court record by an attorney and used against a litigant, negatively, in family court.”
CAN FACEBOOK HELP OR HURT YOU IN A DIVORCE?
If your Facebook page shows that you are a devoted and responsible parent, that may help you slightly in a child custody battle, but a Facebook page that characterizes you as a “party animal” or a “thug” cannot help you with any aspect of your divorce.
On either side of a divorce proceeding, posting something that you think is harmless might come back to hurt you.
You may want to discuss the details with an experienced divorce attorney who can address your concerns regarding your social media accounts and the potential role those accounts can play in the divorce process.
While it is imperative to avoid posting anything online while your divorce is pending, many divorce lawyers are now also saying that you should not close or delete your Facebook account or other social media pages when you or your spouse initiate a divorce procedure.
WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OF KEEPING YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT?
When you keep your social media accounts open, the spouse you are divorcing – and the acquaintances of either partner – may, in fact, post items that will end up being helpful to your side of the case.
Do not close out your Facebook account unless your divorce lawyer specifically tells you to do so.
Possibly the most important reason that a divorcing spouse should not delete a Facebook account is because it may come under the scrutiny of the discovery process in a divorce procedure. Your spouse’s attorney conceivably could ask the court to order you not to delete the account.
The lawyers on both sides of the divorce will want to access and examine your Facebook page, so you do not want to be accused of hiding or destroying evidence.
WHAT CAN A FACEBOOK ACCOUNT REVEAL?
Your history on Facebook is usually available from its beginning. If a divorcing spouse doesn’t delete anything and keeps the account open from the beginning, it could reveal a great deal about why the partners are divorcing – or it may reveal nothing at all.
Your divorce attorney will take a look at your Facebook page – and at your spouse’s, if it is available – and will explain how specific posts may be used to help or hurt your case.
Frankly, everyone should understand that nothing posted online is ever truly private or ever genuinely and entirely deleted. Your spouse’s divorce lawyer may be able to acquire even the posts that you’ve deleted and use the information in those posts against you.
WHAT ABOUT FACEBOOK’S TERMS OF SERVICE AND PRIVACY SETTINGS?
In fact, if you read Facebook’s terms of service, you learn that the platform’s privacy settings may keep others from seeing your posts but offer you no protection if a court – or your spouse’s divorce lawyer – wants access to posts that you thought were protected by privacy settings.
A word of warning: Do not try to “hack” into your spouse’s Facebook page or any other social media account during a divorce if those accounts are not public or if you have been blocked.
Creating a phony identity online and then trying to “friend” the spouse you are divorcing is an extremely bad idea. Instead, let your divorce attorney obtain legally the information that will be useful to you in court.
Any online effort to deceive will probably fail – and bring the court’s condemnation on you.
WHAT DO DIVORCE LAWYERS SAY ABOUT THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA?
The impact of social media on divorce cases cannot be underestimated. Even back in 2010, more than eighty percent of the divorce lawyers surveyed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said the impact of social media on divorce was substantial and on the rise.
When you first speak to a qualified divorce attorney about obtaining a divorce, expect that attorney to ask you about your social media accounts.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT DURING A DIVORCE?
When you divorce, you must be cautious even sending texts and emails. Do not write anything electronically that you would not want your spouse’s attorney to read out loud in court.
You can expect that a divorce proceeding will be uncomfortable and embarrassing, so you do not want to make things even harder on yourself.
Get the legal help that you need at the very start of the divorce process – that’s your right – and then adhere to your attorney’s advice and recommendations.