Step Away From the Computer: Why Divorce and the Internet Don’t Mix

By February 11, 2015

By: Jason Marks, Member
Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, P.L.
Jason Marks_072 greyIt should come as no surprise by now that content posted on Facebook, Twitter and other online forums is open for the whole world to read.  Nor is it a secret that such public postings are discoverable in the court of law.  For example, at the end of last month, a Manhattan judge ordered Twitter to release the private tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester in an ongoing criminal investigation, only further underscoring what has become a new trend whereby courts are reluctant to recognize privacy rights when an individual posts his or her thoughts in a public forum.
Most of us have friends who feel it necessary to publicize every detail of their personal lives on Facebook – including taking jabs at their soon-to-be-ex spouses.  But can taking a pop shot at your ex-to-be negatively impact the outcome of your divorce?

The answer is: YES. When going through a messy divorce, posting pictures of yourself with the hot blonde you met at a bar or telling the world what a horrible person you think your spouse is might seem like a good idea – but before you do, think twice and please, please step away from the computer.
With technology at our fingertips our only worry is not “don’t pick up the phone angry and regret what you might say,” but it has expanded to “think before you text, think before you tweet, think before you update your Facebook status.”
Just like an employer can check out your online identity before making you a job offer, you can be sure that your embittered spouse, and certainly his or her lawyer, will visit your Facebook and Twitter pages and dig up any juicy information you have decided to share with the world.  A variety of things can affect your eventual custody or alimony battle.  Nowadays something that you perceive to be an innocent comment “can and will be used against you.”  It seems as if the world wide web of social media has turned into a new version of perpetual Miranda Rights.
Your husband is a man whore?  Call up a friend and discuss it over coffee.  Your wife is a bad mother?  Hash it out over happy hour.  But definitely think again before bashing your spouse on the internet.  Even “private” posts that are limited to your “friends” may be discoverable in litigation. Keep in mind that anything posted online is traceable and can never be truly erased.
It is not just the written word that one might regret.  Likewise, also be wary about posting pictures of yourself engaging in questionable behavior.  In a custody dispute, photos of you drinking, doing drugs and engaging in sexual contact can all be used against you in court to question your fitness as a parent.
My policy is simple.  Ask yourself “how would I feel if I saw this post or picture permanently plastered on a billboard for the whole world to see?”  If the thought of this even leaves you mildly embarrassed, don’t post it. Because when you think about it, today’s social media is as open and public as doing just that.  Always err on the side of caution.  No one has ever said “I really wish I had put up that picture of myself on Facebook” but plenty of people have lived to regret it.