Family Lawyers Advising on Divorce and Social Media

It has become commonplace for people document nearly every aspect of their lives on social media.  Checking into a popular restaurant on Facebook and later posting a photo to Instagram, commenting on a topic on Twitter, or posting about a business endeavour on LinkedIn have become ubiquitous activities.  However, for anyone going through a separation or divorce, social media can be a minefield of potential legal risks.

At Gelman & Associates, we use our many years of experience in family law to advise clients on new and emerging facets of family law that may affect their legal matter, such as how things posted on social media can be used against them by opposing counsel in disputes over child custody and access, child support, spousal support, or related issues. We regularly counsel clients on best practices in using social media while their family law dispute is ongoing, and help clients ensure that they are not doing anything that may potentially harm their case.

Protect Your Privacy

Anyone going through a separation or divorce, should change all passwords immediately.  Having a spouse access personal social media profiles can be a huge risk following the end of a relationship. Similarly, accessing an ex’s social media accounts without their permission could lead to breach of privacy and possible tort claims.  Furthermore, any evidence obtained illegally (such as through snooping in private email accounts or private messaging) may not be admissible in court.

Avoid Mud-Slinging

It may be tempting to “air dirty laundry” on social media.  Although this may come with a sense of instant gratification, in the long run, it is not helpful.  Firstly, it can slow the healing and “moving on” process. Secondly, it can create tension for mutual friends who are forced to choose sides. Thirdly, such actions could be used to question someone’s fitness as a parent and potentially affect custody and access. Finally, any damaging online comments could be later found by a former couple’s children, who would certainly not benefit from seeing one parent denigrate the other.

In addition to avoiding mud-slinging, statements or comments about the family dispute, any ongoing litigation, or anything to do with the custody battle of the children should never be posted.

Share as Little as Possible

Individuals going through a separation or divorce should think twice before posting about all the exciting things they are doing now that they have split from their ex.

Photos posted on social media may be used as evidence in court.  If there is a photo of a parent partying and drinking while they are supposed to be watching their children, this could be used as evidence that they are an unfit parent and have negative consequences during a custody battle. If a person is supposed to be job hunting, they should be sure that photos don’t give the appearance they are doing anything but job hunting during business hours.  Bragging online about a new job or upcoming bonus could affect equalization payments.  Vacation photos might give the impression that a person has more money than they do, or the photos could be used to indicate they are hiding a source of income. A LinkedIn account could bring to light a stream of income from a second or third business.

Limit Social Media or Stop Using It Altogether

The best way to avoid the potential legal ramifications of social media is to stop using it and update privacy settings.  Online photos or remarks can come back to haunt spouses involved in a family dispute, and may ultimately incriminate them.  Accounts should not be deleted if there is active litigation, lest it be perceived as deleting evidence.

Social media should always be thought of as public and permanent.  Screen shots and caches mean that posts can live on even after they are deleted.  In short, nothing should be put online that a person would not want to have to address in court.

Contact Gelman & Associates for Guidance on using Social Media During Your Separation and Divorce

At Gelman & Associates, we take pride in providing outstanding customer service and staying on top of legal and other developments that may impact our clients, such as helping clients navigate the world of social media while going through a divorce.  Our clients trust us with their difficult issues, which is why we have received the Consumer Choice Award two years in a row.  Call us at (416) 736-0200 or 1-844-736-0200 or contact us online. With offices in in Aurora, Barrie, Downtown Toronto, Mississauga, North York and Scarborough, we are easily accessible.

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