From Facebook to Instagram to Twitter – these 21st Century platforms provide the ability to see inside the daily, private life of an individual like never before. A follower can see photos or videos of an individual’s recent trip abroad, a new baby-even a new haircut-on these social media sites.
With a click of the mouse, you can get an up-to- date status of a person’s life all without having to pick up the phone or send an email.
But Facebook and other platforms have a downside: Posts, photos and videos can potentially be used against a person, such as in family law court, when parties are divorcing or determining child custody arrangements.
Facebook privacy: it’s not what you think
Although a person can create his or her own privacy settings to prevent strangers or certain people from seeing their status updates, such settings do not apply when there are legal actions involving the user. In fact, Facebook has a policy that states this exact premise-even for deleted posts.
Prosecutors investigating criminal cases are often able to obtain information from a user’s account. The same, unfortunately, goes for family law attorneys. When spousal support or child custody matters are at stake, opposing counsel can and do obtain potentially damaging social media posts against an individual.
Here are a couple of examples:
Damaging information in a child custody dispute
Let’s say a divorcing couple has a dispute about which parent will have full-time physical custody of the children after the divorce. Both parties have asked the judge for exclusive physical custody.
However, one party’s attorney is able to provide evidence that the other parent is unfit to have physical custody. Why type of evidence? Facebook pictures and updates that show, for example, pictures of the other party’s boyfriend engaging in some suspect behavior or videos of a party at the other party’s residence that reveals shots of potentially illicit drug use.
This type of evidence can easily paint a picture to the judge that the other parent’s environment is a danger to the child.
A harmful impact to a spousal support award
Another instance may involve a party’s spousal support contribution. When it comes to support, both parties are required to submit truthful, accurate information regarding their gross income and other types of compensation they receive.
Let’s say a judge has stipulated a monthly amount one party has to pay to the other party based on the information he or she provided. However, a Tweet from Twitter or a Facebook picture of a new boat recently purchased may be evidence that could be used by the recipient’s attorney to prove that the payer isn’t exactly being truthful regarding his or her income.
Be careful what you say and do
The bottom line: It’s important for us all to be careful what we tweet, post or upload on Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites. This same rule goes for email.
Nothing is ever truly private, nor is it ever truly erased. You never know when information or a simple picture can be used against you in a court of law.