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Just Log Out: Social Media, Smartphones, and Family Law Litigation

According to various research groups, in 2017, between 67 and 77% of adults in the United States owned smartphones.  I would venture to say that number only continues to increase.  And it doesn’t take an official study to show how addicted we are to our phones.  Ever feel like you are missing an appendage when you leave home without your device?  I think we can all relate.  What in the world do we actually do on our phones?  Most of us text, email, use the internet, and post on various social media apps.  Not a problem, right?  The answer is:  not usually.

If you are going through a separation or divorce, any good attorney will tell you to avoid or limit social media use, or will at least tell you to ensure that all of your social media accounts are “private.”  That is where things get a little tricky.  You see, “private” accounts are never truly private.  For this reason, I would encourage you to be aware of what you put on any social media platform, even if the account is allegedly “private.”  There are always “friends” that will report back to the opposing party with screenshots from your social media page.  These screenshots may or may not be incriminating.  As bad as it sounds, trust no one when you are going through any type of litigation, especially anything family law related.  Family law encompasses separation, divorce, equitable distribution, custody, child support, alimony, and even domestic violence.  I think it is best to assume that anyone can and will read what you post online.

Venting about your current legal situation might seem like a great idea, especially since the opposing party is not a friend or a follower of your social media accounts.  WRONG AGAIN!  If you must post, avoid disparaging the other party (or their family), and especially avoid posting details regarding a pending court case.  Another thing to avoid posting is any picture that might be even a bit incriminating.  Posting pictures of yourself online with your new boyfriend or girlfriend is generally cute, UNLESS you are involved in litigation.  These cute pictures may land you in a world of hurt, and cost you more money than you ever imagined.  And who doesn’t like to post pictures of their vacation or of their fun weekend activities?  Did you take a spur-of-the-moment trip to Turks and Caicos?  How about that filet mignon and lobster tail you had for dinner last weekend?  Posting about these things are fine unless you are claiming that you don’t have any money to pay alimony or child support.  When in doubt, don’t post it!  You can do what everyone did prior to having social media to document our every move…keep those memories in your head.

Utilizing texting or any type of instant message program is generally a bad idea, especially someone who is the opposing party in family law litigation.  We all know that words can be misconstrued, and it is very easy to hide behind a keyboard to type things we would normally be ashamed of.  That’s not even considering the fact that these messages are never truly deleted.  There are screenshots as well as conversation logs that can and will be accessed if necessary.

The bottom line is to use your common sense.  Assume that everyone can and will be able to see or at least access your social media posts and texts.  Keeping a low-profile on social media is always a best practice during any type of litigation!  If you need help navigating your family law issue in Wake, Durham, or Johnston County, please contact The Law Office of Melissa K. Flanagan, PLLC.