In today’s world, it is unusual to find someone who does not have an online presence, whether through social media, blogs, professional networking, comments on electronic articles, etc. Social media has become the land of oversharing, where unintended consequences may be looming. The information you post on social media can be permanent, even with privacy settings. It is quick and easy to post the details of an entire week within minutes—leaving a time stamped, potentially permanent record online.
According to the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Fact Sheet, as of June 12, 2019, 72% of the public was using some type of social media. At the time their research was published, YouTube and Facebook were the most widely used platforms with Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Reddit not far behind. These numbers were published prior to the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, social media has become an increasingly important social outlet, and new platforms have become increasingly popular, like Tik-Tok. No doubt, they provide entertainment and keep people connected, but with so much of our lives displayed on social media and our reliance on text, email, snapchat, instant messaging, etc. to communicate, it is important to know how technology and social media might impact your case.
If you are involved in a Family Law matter, it is important to understand anything you post online, text, snapchat, email, etc., and anything you have on your electronic devices may become evidence in your case. Courts have allowed social media information in cases, where its relevance can be established. This means that even if your accounts are private, that information could be used against you in court.
First and foremost, change each of your passwords to any email and social media accounts (along with any other online accounts you have). It is a good idea to open a new email account to use for communication with your attorney, and if you have a confidential question for your attorney, contact your attorney or their assistant via telephone.
You should assume that every online post is being read by your spouse and your spouse’s attorney. With this in mind, we offer the following guidance when it comes to social media:
- Do not post pictures of yourself with new significant others.
- Do not post pictures of your children during the pendency of your action.
- Do not change your relationship status during your case.
- Do not post pictures of yourself partying or throwing parties at your home, at bars, at clubs, etc.
- Do not post pictures of or about purchases you have made, and do not sell any personal property during divorce proceedings, unless you and the opposing party have agreed to it in writing. This could be used against you if alimony is an issue and for purposes of property division.
- Do not disparage your spouse or your spouse’s family and friends online, and do not allow any of your family or friends to do the same.
- If your privacy settings are “public” change them to “private”.
- You may need to reach out to friends privately and ask them not to “tag” you in photos or posts, or post information about you or your children.
You should also go about your life assuming your spouse or ex-spouse’s attorney is reading every email you send and receive.
- Emails can easily tell a story and most certainly create a paper trail to be used in court.
- Do not name-call or make threats to the other party.
- Remember that you cannot merely erase or “recall” an email. Once it is out there, it is out there.
Texts and Instant Messaging.
- You can bet that your spouse’s attorney is reviewing and saving each of your texts and instant messages, meaning they also create a paper trail and will likely show up in court if needed.
Audio and Video Recordings.
- With smart phones, any interaction or conversation can be recorded. In Utah, only one party needs to consent to the recording, so you can safely assume that your conversations and interactions are being recorded.
Internet Searches and History.
- Your search histories and sites you access online using your phone and computer could be accessible to the other party’s attorney.
- Even if you delete the histories, the information can be retrieved.
While this information has been provided in the context of protecting you, it can also be used in court to support your case. However, just because you can, does not always mean you should. Reach out to one of our attorneys to find out more about how to further protect yourself, what you should be keeping record of, and the best way to document information.