Safeguarding your internet presence? In the midst of divorce, property rights, use of accounts, custody arrangements, and other issues become legal matters–rather than just private affairs. That is why a heightened level of personal scrutiny is always demanded during divorce proceedings. There is no way to keep emotions out of the process, but it is important to understand the legal ramifications of actions during marriage dissolution which are often fueled by emotion.
For example, our Santa Rosa divorce attorneys often remind residents that when you are involved in divorce proceedings it is extremely important to properly manage your social media presence and internet personality. If children are involved it is likely important to be careful about social media issues even after the divorce. In this context, “social media” is used expansively. It includes everything from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and personal blogs to email messages, online message boards, and text messages.
Social media in divorce cases is becoming an increasingly useful weapon, especially when children are involved. A recent attorney survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that 81% of attorneys were using evidence that had been gleaned from social media sites. This evidence can influence spousal support or child custody decisions.
California child custody laws focus on the best interests of the child. This usually includes a look at whether a parent is willing and able to help his or her child maintain a good relationship with the other parent. Public displays of animosity against another parent on a social media site can be harmful when it comes to determining child custody arrangements. Additionally, the social life of the parent can be a factor in the custody decision. Posting pictures of a night out with friends or other social activity may raise questions about a parent’s actions or contradict previous statements which may influence a judicial determination. Even though it may be completely innocent behavior, comments and images gleaned from these social media sites can paint a deceptive picture. This is especially true in the courtroom where the only thing the judge has to go on is the evidence presented to him or her–they do not know those in front of them personally.
Many people incorrectly believe that their information will be protected as long as they block their spouse and his or her close friends from seeing what they post. However, as individuals have discovered in a wide range of situations–including divorce–it is incredibly difficult to keep things private once they are posted online. It is always best to simply assume that anything sent in an email or put onto a social media site may eventually be seen by everyone.
Considering the potential pitfalls, sometimes the it is best to disable social media pages entirely for the duration of the divorce proceedings. Most social media sites allow you to disable your page so that it will not be available for anyone to see. This also usually prevents all others from locating your page via searches but does not require you to permanently delete previously posted information.
For the same reason, it is important to avoid saying anything in email and text messages that might come back to haunt you later. Even if you trust the person to whom you are writing, you simply cannot be sure that messages will stay private. Always try to write everything with an assumption that it will eventually become public, and try to imagine ways that it could be used against you. You cannot be too careful when it comes to social media and your internet presence during a divorce or child custody dispute. If you are in doubt about how a message or action may affect a proceeding always ask for guidance from your divorce lawyer or other legal professional.
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(Photo courtesy Franco Bouly)