Navigating the Social Media Jungle During Family Law Litigation

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Recent psychotherapist, Dr. Ian Kerner, an expert couples counselor caused a stir by suggesting that couples “unfriend” each other on social media sites including Facebook in order to encourage face-to-face communication and maintain a sense of “mystery” in the relationship. This suggestion is contrasted with the therapists who argue that not only should couples be “friends” and follow each other on social media, but that they should go as far as to share a social media account. The argument here is that if she shares an Instagram account with me, she couldn’t possibly be private messaging someone else, keeping secrets or engaging in an illicit affair via Twitter direct messaging (because that’s what Ashley Madison is for). Regardless of the arguments on both sides, at the end of the day, despite their best efforts, couples do split up, and with custody, divorce, support, and property division cases pending, often family law litigants are left to wonder what to do with their social media now that their relationship has ended.

Though most family law lawyers suggest that you follow your gut instinct and “unfriend” your ex on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, it may help your case to limit posting on social media or cut it out entirely while you are involving in a family law case. The reason for this is that lawyers are trained and paid to research and investigate. This investigation includes snooping into everything and anything that the opposing party posts on social media. More often than not, despite what parties may claim in court, their social media posts tell a different story. All too often in this age of extreme social media use, lawyers and their clients are able to use social media to prove everything from addresses, employment and relationship statuses to paternity, and because most of it is posted by the opposing party, it is usually admissible in court!

It’s best to look at your use of social media during family law litigation as if you are being given your Miranda rights every time you log onto social media. Anything you say (or post) can and probably will be used against you in a court of law. While it may not be necessary to stop posting all together on social media, it is necessary to think before you post, especially where children are involved. Remember, your child’s other parent has as much right as you do to limit how much of their child’s life is exposed to social media and just because you think the post is innocent does not mean they will. Yes, you took some great pictures on your beach vacation, but remember the bigger picture.

On the flip side of this issue is, of course, the fact that social media can be a great tool to help connect divided families. Parents with partial custody of children living across the country are able to reconnect and reach out to their children with the mere click of a mouse. Closer to home, social media can be a great tool for parents who are amicable to co-parent their children and share their accomplishments with each other and extended family.

At the end of the day, the important thing to remember when using social media during a family law case is the same thing you should remember whenever you use social media, especially when kids are involved: be smart. Think before you post. And remember the internet is forever.

If you are currently involved in a family law case and want advise on how to navigate social media or any other issues, contact our office by phone today at 412-281-9906. We can’t wait to hear from you!