According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, in recent years 81% of its attorneys have represented clients in cases involving evidence from social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Posted pictures and comments can make the job all-too-easy for an attorney looking to attack the credibility or competency of a party.
A picture is worth a thousand words. That picture you posted of yourself in a questionable situation speaks volumes to the court and can result in unfavorable rulings regarding child custody or visitation. The information posted doesn’t even have to be tawdry or illegal to land you in trouble. What about the parent with claims of no income for child support, a Facebook profile chock-full of photos of luxury purchases or exotic vacations? Or the parent who posts profanity-laden status updates, insulting the judge’s competence? Should it find its way into the court, none of this information is going to help their case.
All of these communications can be considered by the court in making its rulings. Nothing you post online is 100% private, regardless of your privacy settings. Opposing attorneys can always subpoena the records, share your dirty secrets with the court, impeach your credibility, and obtain a favorable ruling for their client – your ex.
The lasting implications of a negative court ruling can far outweigh the momentary, fleeting satisfaction of venting your frustration at the judge or your ex, or sharing “fun” photos on your Facebook profile. The bottom line is that you have to think before you post. It has often been said that you should not publish anything that you wouldn’t want your Mother to see. A similar standard should be applied for those going through a divorce or custody battle. What if that comment you are about to make, or the photo you are about to post, were to fall into the hands of your ex’s lawyer? This can have far-reaching consequences, affecting your income and support obligations, or visitation and custody of your children.
To avoid the pitfalls of information sharing in the digital age, you must assume that anything and everything you post will be obtained by opposing counsel and find its way into the courtroom. Family law cases involve some of our most private matters and care should be taken to ensure you protect your own privacy. Preserve your attorney-client privilege by refraining from sharing any details of your relationship or conversations with your attorney. Avoid posting compromising photos, or making derogatory remarks on your social networking profiles.
Above all, do not post anything you wouldn’t want your ex, his or her attorney, or the judge to see. Regardless of how restrictive your privacy settings may be, this information can easily be subpoenaed and become a part of the court record. If there is any doubt, do not post. You cannot “unring that bell!”