Understand that anything you type, post, or reply can and will be used against you in a court of law.
It seems like we can't turn on the news today without hearing about yet another social media or texting disaster. We watched the downward spiral of Armie Hammer’s career due to his social media posts shared allegedly with his friends only. Next we watched the GM of the New York Mets face termination for sending below-the-belt photographs via text to a woman who did not invite those images. With instant communication at our fingertips, it is easy to make errors in judgment that you regret moments later.
A cartoon was circulating among attorneys recently, the message of which was “don’t put anything in writing you do not want read aloud at a deposition to a room full of people.” That advice couldn't be more accurate, but even more so when facing the high-stress, high-conflict world of a divorce or child custody case in Pennsylvania.
Here are 5 tips about social media and divorce cases that may help you avoid disaster:
Take a break from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere that you post content, as harmless as your posts may be. There is nothing good to come from sharing details of your family’s life on a public platform at this time. Stop sharing and do not let other’s share on your behalf without your permission. Also, it’s time to change your passwords.
2. Erase Your Urge to Erase
Deleting past posts to avoid making yourself look a certain way is a big ethical no-no. What can be found will be found. Control what you can control, which is your digital footprint moving forward.
3. Don't post anything you wouldn't want read aloud in court
Your communications to your spouse or others can be admissible in court – this includes texts, emails and other forms of messaging. If you are feeling emotional, put your phone down until you are calm and able to think clearly without emotional influence.
Identify and utilize stress relief outlets to help you resist shooting back quick, but regretful communications. It may be as simple as walking around your house for 5 minutes or popping on a song that calms you. Have quick stress relievers available to you and use them anytime you feel your heart rate rising.
4. Monitor your children’s use
If your children use social media, you may already be keeping an eye out. If not, now is a good time to start. Divorce and custody cases are tough on your kids. Be sure they are not using their online community as a therapist instead of communicating with you or a trusted individual.
Consider compartmentalizing the time you spend dealing with the stress of your divorce or custody case. I have multiple clients who will check emails on certain days only. I also have clients who ask for a break on weekends. This is particularly important if you have a spouse or partner who engages in excessive communication where there are not issues that require immediate action.
Setting a reasonable amount of time each week during which you will handle and respond to communications and relaying that to your attorneys and the other party can provide you relief from feelings of being overwhelmed. Of course, emergencies can happen which will not fall into those windows, but most of the time, any communication can wait a day or two so long as you disclose your timetable in advance.
Following the above tips could protect you from the unenviable position of having your communications read aloud in court or used against you. In many cases, social media and divorce don’t mix. Be mindful of your online presence and it won’t come back to bite you!