If you are contemplating filing for divorce or initiating a child custody suit, the first tip is to make sure that anything you post on social media, whether your account is private or not, is something you will not mind a judge or jury reading. Social media is often a great source of evidence against anyone who is not savvy enough to heed this warning. Generally, you are well-advised to make sure you do not post anything self-incriminating, or disparaging about your partner. Turning to social media may seem like a great way to vent or get some much-needed support – but it can come back to harm you. Also, airing relationship disputes is often unwelcome and uncomfortable for your “friends” as they scroll through their news feeds. Social media may feel like it is “private,” but it never is.
Change your passwords to all of your own individual accounts at the outset of a divorce or child custody suit: email, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, LinkedIn, chat apps, etc. Make sure that the email account you are using to communicate with your lawyer is one to which only you will have access. After changing your password, don’t assume that your emails are now private; if you are backing your device up to a shared account, including a cloud account, the other spouse may have access to these highly confidential communications.
Sharing videos and photos was great while you were a couple. However, that changes when you enter into a legal process. Make sure you shut down any photo-sharing files and accounts (Shutterfly, stores where you buy photo prints, etc.). When you are taking screenshots of accounts or social media postings, you do not want your photos automatically uploading to a shared Dropbox or iCloud account.
If you are passing devices down to your children or other family members, make sure you make a backup of the files, and then follow the factory reset instructions. Even though files look like they have been “deleted,” they do not go away permanently. So you want to be careful that you are not inadvertently providing the other party with information they can use against you in a civil family law proceeding.
However, before deleting any possible evidence that could be used against you, you need to consult with your lawyer to make sure you are not breaking any rules or laws by deleting social media posts, wiping out devices, or otherwise making relevant information obsolete. Doing so can result in consequences if you are not careful.
Also, it’s tempting to want to access and/or install spyware on your partner’s devices. Be wary before taking any action or installing any kind of technology that could violate privacy and wire-tapping laws. Acquiring information surreptitiously can lead to more trouble than it’s worth, especially when there are valid legal ways to gather evidence.
Technology can be an asset or a liability during a divorce. Hargrave Family Law can help you navigate this potential minefield. Feel free to reach out to us today.