We have all heard the Miranda rights read to someone arrested for a crime. Interestingly, I find the rights to be very true for divorcing parties as well, especially the part that states, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” And this includes anything you “say” on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are now how we stay in touch with friends and family and connect with the broader community. They have also become how family lawyers find evidence to build their case.
According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 80 percent of divorce attorneys surveyed reported an exponential increase in the amount of evidence collected from social networking opportunities in the past five years. The purposes and consequences of searches of social media produce rich information which can be used by and against litigants on trial or in settlement negotiations.
I was so naïve when I started participating in divorce cases, including my own. I thought facts were facts, and I truly believed that truth and justice always prevailed. I quickly learned that truth was a subjective term. Facts taken out of context can be spun in any number of directions, and this is not “lying.” It’s called puffery or posturing, and it is permissible in court.
Imagine, for example, you decide to eliminate some divorce-stress with a girl’s night out, only to find that selfie of you toasting the evening sitting on the opposing lawyer’s desk as an example of your late-night partying ways. Or finding your beach shot on Instagram used as evidence that you are frivolous with spending. Anything posted does not carry the expectation of privacy so it can be lawfully used to tell a story, and you don’t necessarily get to do any edits on the story that’s written.
Blocking your spouse is not the answer, because anything your friends post is still available. Remember that day at the concert where everyone was taking photos? Yep, you’re in them. And how many times have friends tagged you in posts? All of those are still available as well. You cannot control what others may post about you, but you can control your own participation.
Deleting your accounts is not the answer either, because you can be accused of destroying evidence. Social media and divorce is a hot topic right now, and lawyers are learning to navigate the tight rope just as we are.
The best advice is to limit your exposure. Keep it simple and keep it clean, and consider taking a social media vacation!
Deborah Denson is a Mediator and Conflict Coach in Nashville, TN. She shares her personal journey learning to manage conflict and life in general on her blog, where she combines original art and wit into a daily dose of insight and humor for readers.