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Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Social Media: Blessing or Curse To Your Domestic Case?

Take a moment and remember back to the times when Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, Vimeo, Tumblr or Snapchat did not exist.  Depending on your age (and perhaps addiction level to social media), you had one of two reactions: (1) a sense of freedom and peace which washed over you or (2) pure panic as you realized you would never know what your friend’s boyfriend’s cousin had for dinner last night!  Regardless of which camp you were in, the fact is that society, relationships and communication are heavily driven in today’s world by social media.

Billions of people connect all over the world every day via social media platforms, the largest of which are Twitter and Facebook.  You can celebrate the mountaintop experiences of your life and of those you know and love (and even those you don’t know at all) or share the rough patch through which you are struggling.  Perhaps one of the most common aspects of social media communication is the ability to post your feelings, both good and bad, about individuals, groups or business and organizations.  Bad experience at the grocery?  Post about it and make sure your neighbors know.  Just had the best meal ever while visiting New Orleans?  Post about it and recommend it to every contact you have.  With Twitter, post and tag (via hashtags) the business, restaurant or company and often times you’ll get a direct response.  That’s pretty amazing considering some of these organizations are multi-country conglomerates.

This ability to single people, groups or companies out is called tagging, can have direct and negative impacts on your divorce, child custody and even adoption case.  Before we launch in to the specific, remember this: judges, police, attorneys and your significant (or soon to be ex-) other will check your social media accounts and there are direct legal consequences which can arise from what you post. 

Consider this – the U.S. Supreme Court ruled several years ago that the U.S. government can get a search warrant for your private Facebook account, and that information can be used to prosecute.  For example, a Michigan man found himself back in prison for violating probation after posting a picture of himself holding a firearm on Facebook.  In other circumstances, individuals have been prosecuted for violating protection or restraining orders, which prohibited direct or indirect contact, for tagging individuals on Facebook or Twitter and calling them things as childish as “stupid” and “sad.”

If you have not been involved in a domestic relations case or issue, one of the most important parts can often be looking at the opposing party’s lifestyle.  To this end, social media is a ripe and plentiful orchard where most people love to parade their latest and greatest [insert item here].  Social media can be used to show financial gain or loss, job status or lack thereof, irresponsible or inappropriate behavior by a parent or ex-spouse and even what gift your husband just gave his new girlfriend even though he claims he can’t afford child support.  People have a false sense of privacy when they’re typing on their computer rather than engaging in face-to-face dialogue.  But EVERYONE IS GETTING MORE NET-SAVVY THESE DAYS, and failing to recognize this could hurt any or all aspects of your legal proceeding.

Here’s the net: if you’re in the midst of or may be getting involved in a domestic/family law issue, take a break from social media.  ALL social media.  Better yet, talk to your attorney, give them carte blanche access to your accounts, and review what’s there with them…as a team.  You don’t have to be an expert in any of these areas…but you do have to be smart.  Step one: contact reputable, capable counsel.  Step two: don’t post anything until you’ve spoken with them.  Step three: let them call the shots.  Step four: when all else fails…keep your mouth shut.


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