Social media is a great way to keep up with loved ones, share your favorite family and vacation photographs, discuss your favorite books and movies, and keep other updated on how things are going for you. You might check into your social media accounts every now and then, or you might be a more active user who posts multiple times each day. However, there are plenty of ways that social media can harm you in family law proceedings.
The most obvious things include any posts about the associated legal proceedings that you’re dealing with. You may assume that it is unwise to post anything about your ex, your custody issues, or your new relationship. Yet, far too many people don’t know that this is a bad idea, and those who do may not realize that there are plenty of other potentially damaging social media mistakes that they or others associated with them might make.
The reality is that various forms of online communication, with social media being a primary factor, can influence the outcome of any family law case in North Carolina. It can impact alimony decisions, child custody and support decisions, and various other aspects of your legal concerns.
Examples of Harmful Social Media Posts in Family Law Cases
While we’ve mentioned some of the obvious things – like posting specifically about your case, the other parent, or child custody and support issues – there are many other ways that your social media posts (and those of your friends) could harm your North Carolina family law case. For example, if you or any of your friends post photos of you drinking or using or even being around illegal substances or make posts that imply that you drink excessively, party or use drugs, this is a mistake.
Additionally, there are the posts that imply that you have more assets than you have revealed in court, or that you might have plans to move out of the state. If you use a dating site or post stories, photos, or updates that indicate that you have a new relationship, this could potentially be harmful depending on the circumstances of your case.
Can You Protect Yourself With the Privacy Options on Social Media?
Some social media websites, such as Facebook, allow you to change your privacy settings to ensure that only those who you wish to share your posts and photos with will see them. Unfortunately, that does not mean that they can’t still be held against you. In fact, this could end up being be more problematic because the privacy settings might make you feel more comfortable sharing more without knowing who may eventually have access.
Regardless of your privacy settings, an opposing party can still request – or the court can potentially order – you to provide the information of your social media accounts, dating websites, and even your email to investigate anything related to your family law case. You also have to be aware of what your friends and family are posting that might be relevant to your life. You may carefully avoid posting any pictures of you having a good time at the bar, but your friend might post plenty. You may go through and carefully remove the “tags” of you, but the photos still exist and can still be part of the family law case investigation.
Generally, it is wise to avoid any activities that may be viewed in a negative light while you are going through a divorce or dealing with any kind of family law issues. While the evidence of this may not show up on your social media accounts, there is always a risk of making yourself look bad when you engage in such behaviors. Even if you think you’re being responsible in making a other personal life decision, it can always be twisted and used against you.
What Else Could Be Used Against You in a North Carolina Family Law Case?
Beyond social media, there are plenty of other things that can be used as evidence against what you’re trying to accomplish in the family court system. Your email account can be investigated, as can your private text messages. There is a prime example in the story of a wife who claimed to not have a job, but had sent emails concerning work and had posted photos of expensive vacations. These things were used against her in her request for alimony.
It is best to remember that anything you may email, text, post, or in any other way include in a written record may be seen or read by a judge. If you think of that before sending any message or posting any photo, then this can keep you from saying something you’ll regret – keeping in mind that even an innocent remark can be taken out of context. For example, you might make a joke about drug use, but the judge might not see it as a joke, and the opposing side could easily claim that it is valid evidence that you are a drug user even if you are not. Of course, you can argue that it was just a joke, but do you really want to be in a position where you have to?
Dating websites are another common issue in family law cases. If you are going through a divorce and it has not yet been finalized, you should always be cautious about using dating websites. You could be accused of cheating or held accountable for the information provided on your profile and the communications sent through the site to potential matches.
Avoid Making Mistakes With Your Accounts
Working with a determined North Carolina family law attorney can significantly improve the outcome of your case, and your attorney is likely to give the same advice: If you choose to continue using social media accounts during your family law case, make sure to be responsible and be smart about it. Think about what you post before doing so and monitor what friends and family post about you as well. Call Remington & Dixon, PLLC for more advice on achieving your family law goals.
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.