Sharing our thoughts, photos and personal details on social media is so ingrained in many peoples’ lives that we do not think twice about the wealth of information left behind for anyone and everyone to discover. But it should be a thought and consideration if you find in yourself heading towards a divorce or custody litigation. As part of the discovery process you will likely have to produce complete copies of the history of your social media accounts. It does not matter if your accounts are set to private - there is still a duty to provide the relevant discovery.
Most people cannot recall everything they have posted on social media since the inception of their accounts. Posts that may have seemed glib or sarcastic in the moment do not always age well. Further, they can take on a new meaning or be viewed in a different light when presented to a judge in a courtroom. Things that they posted years ago, or in a fleeting moment, can come back to haunt you, especially during divorce or custody proceedings.
So what can you do? If you have not yet initiated divorce proceedings, you may want to deactivate your social media accounts. There are a couple of reasons for doing so.
First, you will not be tempted to post negative things about your ex on social media. It is easy when emotions run high, to send a quick tweet about dealing with a deadbeat ex. What may have been venting in a moment of frustration, will turn into an exhibit to show a Judge that you are mean spirited and not willing to co-parent.
Also, if you delete your social media, there will not a forum for well-meaning friends and relatives to make those types of comments on your account. Your friends are generally able to comment on your posts, tag you in photos and locations, and mention you in their posts. All of which may be well-meaning, and intended to be supportive during a difficult time, but not always helpful to your case!
Additional Reading: Five Reasons to Deactivate or Delete Your Facebook Account While Your Divorce Case is Pending
Quitting social media can also be good for your mental health and emotional wellbeing. When going through a break up it can be particularly difficult to view all of the happy images on social media of intact families, not to mention seeing the posts of what were mutual friends, but have sided with your ex. Or seeing posts of couples nights out, etc. or other events which will only make you feel left out. A better option might be to spend that time joining a new group or picking up a new hobby where you can learn new skills, or meet new people.
If you need more motivation, keep in mind the fact that the average individual spends about two and a half hours a day on social media. When you are going through a divorce, that is valuable time you will need to meet with your attorney, gather documents and otherwise participate in the litigation process. Often, clients are not prepared for the amount of time they must devote to their case - by the end they are referring to it as a part-time job.
But, before you delete any accounts, or take any final actions, make sure to consult with an attorney. Under certain circumstances you may be prohibited from deleting any evidence, including social media accounts. Failing to abide by these restrictions could be even more damaging than the actual information contained in your social media accounts. If the Court finds that you were purposefully trying to hide information they can impose sanctions which can negatively impact your case.