We live in a connected world. Unfortunately, social media can begin to take on a life of its own when someone’s personal life is in turmoil. What many do not realize is that venting on a public platform can have consequences during a divorce.
Bergen County courts will accept the admission of posts on social media as discoverable evidence during a trial. Even discovered private messages can put one party’s statements in court at odds with comments or photos on Facebook. Being involved in a divorce proceeding, even if is not yet underway, means that online posts can be self-incriminating. Nothing stated or written online is fully confidential.
Obtaining evidence online
It turns out that the prohibition against using communications on social media platforms has a bearing on the actions of law enforcement, not to private citizens in a civil case, and there is substantial case law that backs this up.
Trying to delete social media content during a proceeding can backfire as well. In the eyes of the law, when someone tries to deactivate an account or delete content online, this is no different from destroying evidence. The consequences can be serious. For example, if one party eliminates certain posts or other communications, the court may decide in favor of the other party as a result of this action. Although they may adjust privacy settings, the court will view any other action with suspicion.
Deleting an account or post does not guarantee that the material is gone forever. Even encrypted content is recoverable, and modern forensic recovery techniques can recover so-called permanently deleted files. Although a password protects personal devices, authorities may legally access them in order to obtain evidence.
When personal information affects your children
Parents love to share photos and updates about their families on social media. During a divorce proceeding, however, this habit could cost them the outcome they are seeking during a child custody hearing. Some things to think about before clicking “share” are:
- Posting personal details or events such as a new relationship or vacation photos
- Inadvertently including the extended family of your spouse in the share
- Posting spiteful or malicious comments about your spouse, or responding to your spouse’s comments if they do the same
Attorneys will often advise clients that it is perhaps better to deactivate social media accounts while the divorce is ongoing, or at least adjust privacy settings when you post content. It is also important to make sure your family is discreet about what they post as well.
Although this all may seem to be common sense in hindsight, during a divorce, emotions run high, and many will reach out in any way they can for the support of friends and family, even if this means making questionable choices. During this time, it makes sense to listen to good advice and take a step back before pressing the wrong button.