Splitting Up? Social Media Could Sink Your Case

Wanting to share what’s important to you with friends and family is only natural. Email, texting and posting messages or photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media make this easy. But if you’re embroiled in an emotional break-up, be very careful about what you share – your texts and posts could come back to haunt you.

When going through a separation or divorce, the first rule of social media is: “Don’t email, text or post anything you don’t want a judge to see.”

Once emails, texts and posts are out there, they can be accessed, copied, shared further and printed. Even a deleted post can still be retrieved. As well, people you thought of as reliable confidantes may pass things on to your ex.

Also, your privacy settings aren’t foolproof. They change all the time and may have unexpected loopholes. And information you think is private may not be protected. Courts need to balance your claims to privacy with the other side’s right to put forward relevant information, which may trump your privacy claim.

In family law disputes today, much of the evidence filed in court may consist of chains of text messages, photos or posts. These can damage or in some cases even destroy a case. If you say you can’t afford to pay child support, then texts or photos of your fancy new car or expensive tropical vacation won’t help.

And when it comes to the critical issues of parenting time and contact with your children (custody and access in divorce cases), social media posts can do untold harm. Posts sent to your ex out of frustration and anger can come across as bullying, threatening or harassing later. If they amount to psychological or emotional abuse, they may be treated as family violence under our family law, with serious potential consequences – a protection order against you, an order to get counselling, maybe even an order to leave the family home. Photos or posts that show you partying hard, using drugs or engaging in other risky behaviours can also hurt your claims for parenting time and contact with your kids.

Even less dramatic emails, texts or posts can have negative consequences. They can show your character to be different than what you’d like the court to believe. And it can be devastating for your kids to see negative posts about your ex.

It’s normal for emotions to run high when your family is breaking apart. But you should express your hurt and outrage in a more private (even professional) setting, not in a public forum which can be seen by everyone, including your ex, their lawyer and the judge deciding your case.

So when splitting up, take your ex and their friends and family off your social media networks. Don’t leave your phone around unlocked for your ex or others to snoop through. And don’t put things on social media that could anger your spouse and turn things into a bitter court fight. Remember, especially if kids are involved, you’ll want a civil relationship later.

This column has been written by Janice Mucalov LL.B as part of “You And The Law”. It provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Names of the parties in reported cases have been changed or removed to protect their identity. Lawyer Janice Mucalov is an award-winning legal writer.

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