Social media and professional networking websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn have become fundamental ways in which we interact with our friends, family and colleagues. They are simple, efficient and fun ways in which we can spread important information about what is going on in our lives. If we buy a new car, we post a picture of it on Facebook or Instagram. If we get a promotion, we update our professional profile on LinkedIn. We do this by second nature and with little regard to the consequences.
The consequences, however, can be far reaching if you are going through a divorce. The pictures, videos and conversations that you post online can be used against you in divorce proceeding. While that picture of you doing a keg stand at your friend’s christmas party may have been funny at the time, a judge may not find it very funny if there are allegations of alcohol abuse. These tips can help protect your online information from being used against you in a divorce proceeding:
1. Change your passwords: In a divorce proceeding, privacy is at a premium. If your spouse knows your password to your computer, e-mail accounts or social media accounts, change them immediately.
2. De-friend, Un-follow, De-connect: Even if you have de-friended your estranged spouse, your once “mutual friends” online can provide your spouse with the information you post online. Limit what information is available to people you might not trust. Disable “tag” functions that allow your friends to tag you in photos or locations.
3. Increase privacy settings: The default privacy setting for most social media websites is set to maximize public access to the information you post online. Divorce attorneys comb the internet for weaknesses in privacy settings. Update and increase your privacy settings to keep people you do not know or trust from accessing your information.
4. Check-out, not in: Many social media websites have the option of tracking where you are and at what time. This information can be used to paint picture about your potentially unfavorable habits and routines. Disable all tracking software and do not check-in to locations.
5. Use discretion: If it is not something you would feel comfortable saying or showing to a judge, then do not say it or show it online. You never know when or how it might get back to him.
6. Vent privately, not online: Divorces are stressful and venting is sometimes necessary. However, if you need vent, do not do it online. No e-mails, no texts, no instant messages, no sad face selfies. Just give a close friend or relative a call. They will make the time.
7. When in doubt, black out: The very best way to ensure that your social network will not be used against you is to close all of your social media accounts. You can always re-open your accounts when the divorce is finalized.