Your online life can impact your real-world divorce

Electronic evidence is used in many divorce cases.

Some of us assume that our online lives and our real-world ones are two distinct entities, and many act in a way that reinforces the distinctions between the two. A shy, reserved person in real life could secretly be a foul-mouthed bully online. A seemingly loving spouse could be leading a double life with multiple electronic affairs (one or more of which eventually becomes a reality).

Our online personas and activities are never really very far away from impacting our day-to-day lives, particularly when it comes to a divorce or family law dispute. All manner of electronic evidence, including the following, are increasingly common in family court cases:

  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Social network and media posts (on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, as well as business sites like LinkedIn or Indeed)
  • Digital photos
  • "Check-ins" at various locations
  • GPS and telephone location data
  • "Tagged" posts and photographs posted by other people

How the two interact

If you have claimed a lack of funds to fight alimony payments requested by your spouse, but your new love interest has posted photographs of fancy presents and expensive vacations, your credibility with the court could be seriously affected. If you are seeking primary custody of the children, but friends regularly "tag" you in photos where you are out at all hours, the judge might find that it is not in the children's best interests to live with you. Status updates where you bash your spouse or blast the court proceedings can - and will - be easily discovered by the opposition. These will have a negative impact on your case.

What to do

This isn't to say that you have to resort to a landline or "snail mail" and go on a digital "strike" until your divorce is resolved (though some experts do recommend that). You can continue to use social media and electronic communications provided you do it in a responsible manner. A good rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn't say it in front of a judge, you probably shouldn't post it online, send it via email or write it in a text message.

It is possible to limit the potentially negative impact of electronic evidence and communications. You should:

  • Check your privacy settings - these aren't foolproof, but they can at least make it more difficult for your online life to become public
  • Not accept any new "friend requests" or add to your social networks while your case is pending
  • Tell loved ones not to "tag" you in photos, posts or "check-ins"
  • Consider severing ties with mutual online links between you and your spouse, at least until the case is resolved
  • Not use social media as a platform to discuss the case in any way - especially don't disparage your spouse, say anything about the judge or discuss your attorney's case strategy

One more thing: Never access your spouse's social media accounts without their permission, as tempting as it may be. This could not only violate social networking sites' terms of use, it might even be illegal depending on the circumstances, so evidence you gather might not even be admissible. It isn't worth the risk to your case or your reputation.

In spite of these warnings and admonitions, it is possible to safely navigate social media during a divorce. You will, however, need the guidance and help of a trained family law attorney to do so. Contact an experienced divorce lawyer at the Fayetteville office of the Hogue Law Firm, PLLC online or by calling 866-649-6167.