“Shut down your Facebook account. Immediately. And lay off the Twitter.” It’s one of the first recommendations every competent family law attorney imparts to their newly signed client. And with good reason. There will be plenty of time later to explain to your friends, your family, your coworkers and associates—if you choose to do so at all once your legal matter concludes—the whys and the wherefores of your alimony-custody-child support-divorce matter, whichever the case may be. But giving the entire World the day-by-day, minute-by-minute account of your legal matter, blowing off steam and venting on Facebook, is not going to do you any favors in public, in private, or in court. There will be time later to address how you wish to share the details of what is probably one of the most difficult times of your life with the rest of the World, if you choose by that time to share those details at all.
We’re all—well, most of us, anyway—creatures of social media these days. We tell everyone where we were, where we are, and where we’re going. It becomes second nature to us. And let’s face it…we frequently share way too much information with the masses of the internet. We Instagram a pic of our recently ordered burger right after we “check in” at the restaurant on Facebook and right before we Yelp a review of the feast and tweet our plans for dessert. It’s all in good fun and it’s all completely harmless, we assume. And mostly it is. But not always. Sometimes the things we put on social media can come back to haunt us in very serious ways, both in life and in our legal affairs. There are two major problems with social media when it comes to your legal affairs. The first problem is that once you post something, it never goes away. Never. The second problem is that we rarely, because of our habit of posting our every thought and deed, take the time to fully consider the full and potential implications of what we are choosing to share with the World.
Ask a family law attorney and they will, without fail, share with you the horror stories social media has brought to their door. The inappropriate picture with friends that cost a client time with his children, the tweet sent at 2:00 a.m. accompanied by a location tag that disclosed a parent violating a court order, the completely understandable venting on Facebook that looked so very, very inappropriate to a judge and cost someone their alimony. That geotagged tweet your ex posted while he or she was at a bar watching the game instead of picking up your children from baseball practice? Yep, that’s going to be presented in court when your custody motion is heard. That Facebook post where your ex vented and made vague threats about “how bad things were going to get” for you if the divorce did not wrap up soon? Again, that is not going to play well for him or her in court. And yes, these things happen. Every day. And yes, attorneys use these things in court to benefit their clients. Every day.
The long and short of this is that we all share a lot of information on social media platforms. And once that information is out there, for better or for worse, you can’t pull it back no matter how hard you try. Your attorney can’t do anything about what you posted in the past, because advising you to delete things which have already been posted would be counseling you to improperly destroy potentially relevant evidence. That would be unethical. But a good family law attorney will always counsel you to take it easy on the social media until your legal matter has been concluded. One thing your lawyer never, ever likes to receive from opposing counsel is a surprise discovery packet from our friends at Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. So for the duration of your legal matter, do yourself and your counsel and your future a favor…and tweet all about it later.