If you are either facing an impending divorce or are already in the middle of it, we have five basic rules to follow regarding social media and digital communications. These will help protect yourself and your family.
Rule #1: Change your passwords and personal privacy settings.
It is incredibly important to change your passwords and privacy settings on accounts once you and your spouse have separated or are in the process of divorce.
As explained, posts and text messages can be used against you in dissolution, child custody, and child support proceedings. Furthermore, there are implications regarding domestic violence and stalking at play. Many accounts track our locations, which can be used by an abusive spouse.
Are you thinking: I rarely used my spouse’s computer- changing passwords isn’t necessary.
Consider this: Do you have a propensity for hitting the “save password” toggle on your computer when prompted? Or maybe you remember the time you logged into Facebook or email on your ex’s computer? Change your password.
Are you thinking: “I never used my spouse’s computer for Facebook or any other reason.”
Finally, please remember: Even if you swear you never used your spouse’s computer, we live in a world where devices and accounts are connected; the Internet of Things means our cars, refrigerators, televisions, outlets, and even toasters come with computers. Computers lead to accounts; accounts lead to access to your passwords, links to other accounts, means of communication, and location tracking.
Just change your passwords.
Rule #2: If you still have access to your ex-spouse’s accounts, do NOT use this advantage.
This is especially true regarding tracking your spouse’s location.
One More Time For People In The Back: TRACKING YOUR SPOUSE’S LOCATION IS EVIDENCE OF CONTROL, DOMINATION, AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
Tracking your spouse’s location is unlikely to prove something that the Court cares about more than the fact that you tracked your spouse’s location.
If you realize that you have access to one of your spouse’s accounts, immediately notify your spouse or your attorney so that they may reach out to your spouse’s attorney.
Rule #3: When possible, avoid texting your ex during the case.
It is best not to text your ex during a divorce or child custody/support case.
If there are no children involved, dedicate only one means of communication (email, text, whatsapp, etc.). Notify your ex that you would prefer to just communicate on one medium, and, if your attorney approves, block your ex from all other platforms.
When children are involved, blocking your ex is not the best answer; courts expect that you are reachable in the event of an emergency.
Further, civil communication is very important when there are children. Even if your ex sends you an inflamed message, full of accusations and lies, do not respond in kind. If there is no need for you to respond to the message, then do not respond. Save the message for your attorney and the courtroom; the court does not look kindly on these messages.
However, if you must respond to address an important issue like childcare, start like this: “I’m sorry you feel that way. This has not been easy for me, and I am doing my very best to work through this, too. Right now, I just need for you to tell me when I should meet you at the Kroger parking lot to pick up the kiddos.”
Rule #4: Do not post anything on social media during a dissolution.
As discussed, digital communication, whether text messages, social media posts or messages, and using location tracking are often used as evidence in dissolution, child custody, and child support proceedings.
Even if you have blocked your ex on social media, they can still likely access your posts because although you blocked your ex and their family, did you also block all of your mutual acquaintances?
If your ex finds out from any of these people that you are posting on social media, they can ask for screenshots of your posts.
The best way to avoid this? Do not post anything on social media during the divorce. Consider your dissolution period a vacation from social media and put that energy elsewhere- like revenge-exercising, craft beer tasting, or buying a new wardrobe for yourself.
Rule # 5: If you do post something on social media that you regret, do NOT delete it. Immediately reach out to your attorney for advice.
Be sure you meet with your attorney before you delete anything! Some courts consider deleting posts after the divorce or separation has been filed as destruction of evidence. This will land you in a ton of trouble, and not something you want to add to your divorce proceeding.