Most everyone uses social media in some capacity or another. Whether you use your online platforms for professional reasons or for staying connected with friends, it’s important to understand the potential consequences of logging on. If you are involved in a legal battle, negotiations, or modifications of any kind, the content you post on your social media platforms could work against you in court. Many people unwittingly provide proof against themselves via social media, or at the very least provide the other side of the argument with compelling evidence that you are dishonest. Though this may seem impossible, social media has ruined thousands of people’s arguments in court and lost millions of dollars in settlements and won cases.
Social Media and Finances
During divorce proceedings, especially if the process has been particularly stressful, it can be appealing to post details about your new and changing lifestyle online. However, in many cases, individuals accidentally disclose assets or funds via their posts that they have misrepresented in negotiations. For example, if you are going through a divorce and have disclosed all your assets that seem to be minimal and then post pictures in Cancun with some friends, the opposing side will wonder where the funds for your trip came from. Even if you came by the money honestly or the trip was a gift, the information is fair play in the divorce courtroom. Your ex-spouse’s attorney will likely try to use this information as proof that you do not need or deserve as much in the settlement as you previously implied or that you have more of a financial support network than you disclosed.
Your financial support network especially comes into play during spousal support negotiations. Spousal support aims to ensure that you have your needs met, and you can begin your new life with some financial stability. However, if you post a photo of your new high-end car during these negotiations, the court will likely assume that you do not need as much funding as you previously implied. On the opposite end, if you do the same thing as the financial breadwinner, you may be required to pay more in spousal support if your posts make it clear that you have more spending money than you had previously disclosed or implied.
Child support is slightly different, as the ultimate aim of child support agreements is to support the children, not the parents. However, boasting about a lavish lifestyle online can affect your child support agreement. This is a similar situation to spousal support agreements. If you are open about having extraordinary funds online, you may not be entitled to receive child support or may be asked to pay more child support, depending on your situation.
Social Media and Reputation
Aside from finances, it is essential to remember that social media affects reputation as well. Many contracts and agreements are dependent on both parties telling the truth and acting like responsible adults. If either of those is called into question, your contract could be in jeopardy. Though social media is not necessarily an accurate representation of real life, it is important to remember that what you post online can be used as proof, whether that proof is a reflection of the truth or not.
During child custody or child support battles, it is imperative to ensure that you are not portraying yourself as irresponsible online. The courts are always looking out for the best interests of your children, and any indication that you are an unfit parent or a danger to your child could be grounds for the court to grant custody to your child’s other parent or put the child into foster care. This means that it is wise to avoid posting photos and videos of you partying and drinking, especially if illegal substances are present. Do not post content of yourself engaging in reckless behavior, especially if your child is present. Even if an activity is legal, such as bungee jumping, the opposition can easily use that as proof that you lack concern for your own safety and will not be an excellent primary guardian for your children. It may seem extreme, but try to be especially conservative with your social media posts until the contracts are finalized and signed.
It can be difficult, especially during a divorce, but do not post any defamatory information or statements about your ex-spouse. Even if the information is accurate, your ex-spouse’s lawyer may use this information against you. Especially avoid any online statements that could be construed as angry or threatening to your ex-spouse. Even though you may be hurt, it is better to use your anger to win your case rather than post an angry rant online.
There are a few ways you can ensure your safety online when you are going through contract negotiations. While your first line of defense should be watching what you post, there are other ways to ensure that you are protected from any defamatory use of your social media presence in court. To protect yourself, you should:
- Check and tighten your privacy settings. Double-check that your information is private. Remove any people from your follower or friend lists who you do not trust, and ensure that only your trusted friends and family can see what you put online.
- Ask your friends to refrain from tagging you. Understandably, your friends will want to keep posting on social media as normal. Ask them to forgo tagging you, and refrain from posting photos of you doing anything that does not fit the above criteria.
- Turn off locations. It’s safer overall if your social media doesn’t know where you are, as there is less of a chance that you will disclose information unwittingly.
- Change your passwords. Just in case your ex-spouse has your information, it’s safer to change your passwords to ensure security.
Look to Stange Law Firm for Advice
For legal advice in any area, contact Stange Law Firm. With nearly 20 years of experience, we can guide you through your contract negotiations with an expert hand and advise you on social media use during that time as well.