Today, it seems like everyone participates in some form of social media. It can be through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, or personal blogs. While social media forums are a great way to remain connected to family and friends, they can lead to serious consequences during a legal dispute. If you are involved in any legal dispute, it is critical to understand that the use of these tools can result in problems for your case if caution is not exercised. This is especially true if your matter involves issues of finances or custody.
What information is online, and can it be used in court?
Social media is an outlet to the world, providing information about you that you may not even know about. Attorneys are quickly discovering that social media outlets often provide an abundance of evidence about behaviors, lifestyles, the existence of assets, and big expenditures. Any information obtained through social media can be used in court. For example, posts can be used to evidence adulterous behaviors, parenting behaviors for custody, and lavish spending for support purposes. These posts can be hurtful to your case if they are posting about you, or the posts may be helpful to your case if they are posts from the opposing party.
What can I do to protect myself and my case?
If you are unable to take a break from social media during your case, you should assume that everything you post online can be seen by anyone. These tips will help guide you in posting so you do not jeopardize your case:
- Update your passwords and make sure they are strong and secure.
- Update your privacy settings to control who views your information. Do not be fooled into believing that only your designated friends and family are viewing things that you post because posts can be shared to numerous people without your knowledge. Anything you post, message, or e-mail online has a way to be discovered and used against you.
- Be cautious of everything you post. Perception is everything, and anything you post can be easily taken out of context. People may interpret your posts in their own context and make unfounded assumptions about you.
- Do not post any financial information such as any purchases made or vacations taken.
- Do not discuss the details of your legal case.
- Do not make any disparaging remarks about the opposing party. Although it may be easy to vent online about the opposing party, bad-mouthing can be disastrous for your case.
- Be cautious of any photos that you post or are tagged in. Just like words, photos can be taken out of context and show you in a bad light. For example, photos of you partying may be used by the opposing party to argue that you are unfit to parent equally. Likewise, photos of you with a new romantic partner or photos of you making extravagant purchases/acquiring assets may affect you financially.
- You should “Google” yourself online to find out what comes up about you.
If you are in doubt about what to post on social media, do not post anything. Social media can have serious and long-lasting implications for your legal case. If you have questions or concerns about your divorce or child custody matter, contact the family law attorneys at Tharrington Smith at (919) 821-4711 for a consultation.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. This article reflects the opinions of the author based on North Carolina law in effect at the time of posting.