“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. You may feel the need to “put it out there,” or to “set the record straight,” but there will be plenty of time to explain to your friends, your family, your coworkers, associates and members of all circles— “what happened.”
Trust us on this one. You will have plenty of time to tell your side of the story, if you choose to do so at all, once the smoke clears. (But at least wait till the smoke clears!)
We counsel individuals to really think twice about reckless status updates… which are discoverable in Court, by the way. Giving the entire World your day-by-day, minute-by-minute account of your legal matter is not going to do you any favors in public, in private, or in court. We sometimes honestly forget how many different people we are connected to and “who” can see “what” through friends of friends.
One thing is for sure: this too shall pass. That means that there will be more than enough time at the conclusion of your legal matter to address your family and friends. 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, should require some serious consideration; don’t be victim to a quick, emotional post about how much you “can’t stand him (or her)” because of another broken promise.
We’re all—well, most of us, anyway—creatures of social media these days. We check in, we tag, we post pictures of our drinks and desserts… It becomes second nature to us. And let’s face it…while some of us frequently share too much information with “the masses” of the internet, it’s advisable to keep discoverable information relating to your family law matter OFF of social media. 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 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. Examples?
- 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 an affair and even gave the time, date, and location of the tryst, 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 single day. And yes, we attorneys use these things in court. Every single day. I hope that this post will serve as a reminder to keep certain things off social media.
Can’t You Just “Clean Up” Your Mistakes?
Always remember that once 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, which is “spoliation” of evidence and not allowed.
A smart and diligent family law attorney will always counsel you to avoid negative social media exposure until your legal issues have been resolved. One thing your lawyer never, ever likes to receive from opposing counsel is a surprise discovery packet from our friends at Facebook 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.
At Simoni Law Office, LLC, we offer free family law consultations. We’d be happy to meet with you for a no-hassle, confidential consultation to discuss the legalities of your current situation Our consultations are strictly confidential. Contact Simoni Law Office at (856) 208-1787.
Jeffrey Kerstetter, Esquire
Of Counsel to Simoni Law Office, LLC