If you are an adult of any age in 2018 it is likely that you have at least some degree of online presence in terms of social media. Without going through each social media website by name, I am almost sure that you have posted photos, made a status update or shared internet stories on a website at some point in your adult life. Even if you haven’t it could be that you have a personal blog where you share recipes, reflections or other assorted thoughts. Our parent’s generation made long distance calls to contact old friends. We pop onto a website and look people up with the click of a mouse.
The activities that you undertake while online may be something that you barely given any second thought to. After all- in the age of the internet we are all so comfortable moving around from website and website due in part to it feeling like only our friends and family can see what we are doing. How could you be harmed by sharing photos and telling people that you just stepped foot into the new restaurant in town?
These seemingly harmless uses of social media can come back to bite us where the sun doesn’t shine if someone is involved in a divorce or other family law case. This is a sensitive time in a person’s life- as you can attest to if you are going through a divorce. If you are unable to attend therapy or just simply need a jolt of energy to feel better you can post something that is meant to hurt your spouse. That brief feeling of superiority can come crashing down to earth when you realize that you shared something or made a comment about something that could not only hurt your family but hurt your case.
What we are looking for in social media posts is the honesty of the people that we follow and include in our own mini-social network. People tend to say things on the internet that they would never, ever say in real life. You may be an extremely private person in your interpersonal relations, but on the internet, behind the safety of a keyboard, you may share things that you would never think of saying in real life. The problem is, as many people going through divorce have discovered, the internet is very much real life. That goes for the consequences of an ill-timed post or comment, as well.
What an attorney looks for in social media posts
Whether for our client (playing defense) or for an opposing client (playing offense) attorneys that work in the field of family law will scour the internet and play amateur detective in order to find out information that can potentially help our client and harm our opposing client. Courts are becoming more savvy on allowing this type of evidence to be entered into the record and attorneys are becoming more adept at utilizing electronic evidence in ways that can be absolutely damaging to their opponent.
If you have stated that you have never been to a particular place or have been with a particular member of the opposite sex, yet a social networking photo begs to differ, odds are high that this photo and many others will be provided to your lawyer in advance of a hearing or trial to show that you may be caught up in a significant misstatement (otherwise known as a big, fat lie). What can you do to ensure that this is not in your future?
Well, for starters, you can scan your profile and delete whatever you can prior to your divorce. Just get in on every website that you utilize and delete photos, posts and whatever else you think could be compromising. You may want to delete your profile altogether but that may raise suspicion from your spouse and their attorney. There is no rule that I am aware of that says you cannot do this.
The least you can do is to abstain from social media and networking during your divorce. This doesn’t mean only post occasionally or about non-family matters. This means do not touch the keyboard if your intent is to upload a photo or blow off some steam by saying not nice things about your spouse. Hold back those thoughts or write them down in a journal that is for your eyes only.
Be careful how you spend your money
If you are considering whether to make a big purchase during your divorce you may want to reconsider. Posting about the new television or other big ticket item that you’ve purchased could be argued that you are misusing community funds. It is likely that you are under some sort of order that restricts your spending of money on certain things during a divorce. A social networking post is a sure way to let the cat out of the bag that you are violating this order.
Be careful of how you portray yourself
If you are telling a judge that you are the parent who displays the responsible nature that requires you to be named the primary managing conservator of your child you cannot have evidence to the contrary popping up unexpectedly. This sort of evidence could seriously undermine your case and your credibility. I have seen plenty of parents with solid cases be torpedoed by old photos surfacing of their using drugs and/or alcohol to excess. No matter what kind of good explanation you have, nothing can remove the image of that photo from the judge’s brain.
If your spouse knows your social networking passwords be sure to go into your accounts and change them prior to the divorce. Allowing your spouse unfettered access to your accounts could spell doom for you. I have seen unscrupulous spouses login to their spouse’s account and change information to make him or her look really bad. All it takes is a simple print command to capture a post or relationship status that makes you appear to be something that you are not. While you are changing your banking passwords go ahead and change your social media passwords as well.
Be up front with your attorney about what your online persona may look like
The last thing you should do if you have some compromising information or photos online that you know will be relevant to your case is to not tell your attorney about it. You may be embarrassed about what is online and that’s ok. But, keep your pride in perspective when you consider whether or not to make those posts known to your lawyer.
Do not think that your lawyer is going to be shocked by what she reads online about you. I can almost promise you that your lawyer has seen worse not only in their career at some point, but likely has seen worse in the past week. It is human nature to always want to put our best foot forward and present ourselves as being upstanding and respectable. However, we all have done things that we regret and as such you need to make your attorney aware of these issues.
Your attorney can prepare for bad news if she has it early on. What she cannot prepare for is becoming away of really damaging evidence on the day before your hearing. This leaves you all very little time to come up with counter evidence or an explanation for what a judge may be presented with. Do yourself and your attorney a favor and communicate openly and honestly about your online activities.
Questions about internet usage and its importance to your divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
Managing a divorce is tough business, an no attorneys excel more at this task than those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to do the same for you and your family.
To schedule a free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys please do not hesitate to contact our office today. Consultations are free of charge and are available six days per week.