Social media can not only ruin your marriage, it can ruin your divorce.
Because we can, many of us share personal information about ourselves on social media and networking sites. Although you may believe you are sharing your information with one or only a few individuals you think you can trust, don’t be so sure when you are in the middle of a divorce. The best rule of thumb is that anything you put out there, even if posted to just “friends”, is likely NOT protected. If there is something you don’t want a Judge to see during your divorce, do not post it online.
The same holds true with protecting confidential information maintained on your smartphone, tablet, PC or laptop. If you and your spouse share the same smartphone carrier, for example, then in all likelihood, you have access to each other’s digital information maintained on your personal devices covered by that carrier. This may allow your spouse access to your telephone records, emails and text messages. Many divorce litigants communicate with their attorney via email, and you certainly do not want your spouse to have access to those communications—and many others for that matter.
Even if your spouse cannot access your emails or text messages, that information is likely discoverable in divorce litigation and admissible in court proceedings. The information contained in these communications may be relevant to not only a party’s credibility but also to child custody and finances.
Additionally, when your spouse has access to your personal information, including your Social Security number, maiden name and the like, you should assume your spouse can easily hack your private accounts or re-set your passwords, allowing him or her access to your emails or other personal information, including credit cards or bank accounts which are in your name alone. Spyware can also be used by your spouse to invade your privacy, and you may have to retain an expert to ensure that your privacy has not been compromised on your personal devices.
Even outside of the digital context, when you are going through a divorce, you should conduct yourself as if cameras are following you and that you are being recorded at all times. A common strategy is for a divorce attorney to advise the client to make recordings of conversations between spouses, or to hire a private investigator to conduct surveillance of their soon-to-be-ex. If you tell your divorce attorney or your Judge that you are spending 40 hours per week looking for a job, it will be easy to prove that you are not if someone is monitoring your digital communications and your physical comings and goings. I have participated in numerous cases where utilizing a private investigator has proven effective in destroying the credibility of the adverse party in a divorce case. You must be very careful about what you do and say when you are going through a divorce.
If you are preparing for or are involved in a divorce, be very vigilant before utilizing your smartphone, tablet, PC, laptop and social media. Be sure your information and equipment are secure, and if there is something you are about to post that you would are not sure you would want a judge to hear or see, don’t post it. At the same time, be vigilant in investigating all social media which might reveal information useful about your spouse in your divorce. If your spouse is seeking joint physical custody and claims to spend a significant amount of time with your children, you may be able to prove that he or she is spending more time at work or out partying through investigation of social media.
By: Michele LoBello, Esq. Michele LoBello is a founding partner of Black & LoBello. Practicing exclusively in the area of family law, Ms. LoBello handles all domestic matters, including divorce and post-divorce mediation and litigation, paternity, child custody, adoption, termination of parental rights, guardianship, prenuptial and cohabitation agreements, and juvenile dependency. Ms. LoBello was recently named to the 2016 Legal Elite by the Nevada Business Magazine for the second consecutive year in a row.