Like many other Americans, you may be an avid user of social media to stay connected with family and friends. Social media is a great way to stay connected, especially during times when people aren’t able to see each other as regularly as usual. Sharing family photos, personal news, and big announcements on social media is commonplace. This is all well during the good times, but if you and your spouse are going through a divorce, social media is never the right place to air your disputes.
The most important thing to remember about social media? Nothing you post is private, no matter what you think. Photos, updates, and comments can all be discoverable by the court and opposing counsel and used against you in court, so it is of utmost importance during the divorce process that you are judicious about what you post online.
Social media dos during divorce
You don’t have to stop using social media completely during a divorce, family law, or child custody dispute. However, many experts do suggest doing so. If you do continue using social media for non-divorce-related things, you should take the following into consideration:
- Change your passwords and privacy settings. Changing your passwords ensures that your ex-spouse (any anyone else) cannot get into your accounts without permission. Adjusting your privacy settings to the highest possible level assures that only the audience you choose can see and post things to your accounts.
- Talk to friends and family about refraining from discussing your divorce, custody case, or your ex-spouse online. Again, nothing said on social media is ever private, and even a friend’s comments could come back to haunt you later in your case.
- Monitor your children’s social media as well. They may want to use social media as a forum to vent frustrations or unhappiness, but these posts could have unintended consequences. Additionally, knowledge about your child’s emotional state can allow you to get them help in dealing with issues regarding the divorce.
Remember that “social media” is not just platforms like Facebook, or Twitter; anything that involves an online discussion between you and others can be subpoenaed, including group and family texts. Ensure everyone in your group is known and trusted before you share any information that could affect your ongoing case. If there is even a question, don’t do it.
Social media don’ts during divorce
Think before you post. Ask yourself before posting photos or updates, “Could this affect my divorce case?” For example, if you are currently claiming you cannot afford to pay spousal support, but then post a photo of you driving an expensive new car, it will likely raise some eyebrows with the court.
Other social media don’ts:
- Refrain from making derogatory comments about your ex-spouse online. In fact, refrain from discussing your marriage and divorce altogether, including attorney meetings and negotiations.
- Don’t post about your children, including photos. Your child’s other parent may claim they aren’t being cared for properly, spending time with people they shouldn’t, or a host of other complaints to the court.
- Try not to post any photos for the time being. People can misunderstand the context of photos, including who you are with, where you are, and the lifestyle you and your kids may (or may not) currently be leading. This includes any photos of a new special someone in your life, even if your ex is aware that you are dating.
- Do not use social media’s “check in” feature. This shows where you are going and how you are spending your time, which is, frankly, nobody’s business but your own.
- Don’t post anything potentially objectionable. Anything about drinking, drugs, gambling, or sexually inappropriate material can call your parenting into question, which could affect child custody or visitation rights.
- Do not accept a friend or follow request from anyone you don’t know in person. An unfamiliar friend request could be your ex-spouse on a fake profile or another party attempting to gather information about you.
- Finally, never use social media to vent. Visit or call a good friend or family member instead.
A good rule of thumb for social media and online communities is that you should never post anything that you wouldn’t want the entire world to see.
Can the court subpoena social media accounts in my divorce?
Yes, if a spouse does not voluntarily provide their social media account history, an attorney can request a subpoena. Because Texas allows no-fault divorce, so it is not necessary to use a spouse’s social media as evidence to have a divorce granted. However, social media use can affect issues related to your divorce, like child custody, spousal maintenance, or asset division.
Your ex-spouse’s attorney can request access to accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, and other social and communication apps. This also includes online dating profiles. An attorney can also introduce evidence like screenshots, photos, text messages, and emails if the court approves. If you have made false statements in any of these accounts or messages, your ex-spouse’s attorney can use that evidence to challenge the reliability of your testimony so far.
It is also important to note that deleting social media accounts when the court requests access can be construed as an attempt to destroy evidence. This is why it is crucial to speak to an experienced family attorney as soon as possible during the divorce process to ensure you have your social media in order.
At the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm, we can answer all your divorce and family law questions. Call us today at 254-680-4655 or visit our contact page to set up a consultation. We proudly serve clients from our offices in Killeen and Copperas Cove.