The way we communicate with people has changed; Text messages, emails, social media messages and posts are commonplace in everyday life – and divorce. Evidence in family law cases has gone from “he said, she said” to electronic communications, preserved in black and white.
These written communications can be admitted as evidence in a court of law. Your former partner can even ask the court to order you to disclose relevant social media posts or emails, even if your account is ‘private’. If the court believes the information is relevant to an issue in the case, privacy interests are often not enough to deny the disclosure of this type of information.
Here are a few key tips that can help you avoid social media pitfalls when you are going through a separation or divorce.
DO NOT contradict yourself in your posts, status updates and photos. You will undermine your position and worse, hurt your credibility.
DO change all your passwords, and add two step-verification to your accounts where possible. You may even want to consider opening a new private email account. Even if you don’t think your partner has your password or access to your account, he or she may have old passwords, try to log on using your personal computer or have enough information to answer verification questions.
DO NOT hack into your partner’s email account or social media accounts. While tempting, this does not reflect well on you in court. The invasion of your partner’s privacy can be viewed as abusive behaviour. It is also unlikely that messages obtained this way will be admissible as evidence due to their private or confidential nature. You may also open yourself up to being charged with a criminal offence.
DO NOT get carried away with your online activity. Be very, very careful about what you post! You cannot take back what you post. Even if you delete something, the post or conversation may have been saved or screenshot. Anything you say in the heat of the moment could impact your case. Especially avoid any and all language that is aggressive, abusive or threatening in any way.
DO NOT react reflexively to your estranged spouse’s posts or emails. An immediate response may come back to haunt you. Wait at least 24 hours to allow yourself to cool down and think before sending a response. If you are upset at the email received or the post, your ex may be evoking the very response s/he hopes they have triggered.
Going through a separation can be complicated enough, and in our experience, technology can further complicate the process. Technology gives us the ability to react instantly but it is rarely a good idea. Take a minute and think about what you are sending or posting before you hit that button. You do not want to be explaining “what you really meant” to a judge a few months from now.