Many people often wonder what happens to emails, text messages, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, and Tweets when a couple begins the process of divorce.
It is very possible that your lawyer (and your spouse’s lawyer) could delve into the history of your electronic communications and online activity. The findings may be used to assist in divorce settlement negotiations and child custody disputes. If you are considering divorce, conduct your electronic behavior with the mentality that every keystroke is for public consumption. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and you can’t unsend electronic data.
Below are a few tips to keep in mind regarding your usage of electronic data during divorce.
- Restrict online activity. Sometimes, people going through a separation will deactivate their social media accounts during the divorce process, while others will choose to post less often in an unassailable fashion on social media accounts. Whatever you decide, take sensible steps to prevent a mishap with your online activity during divorce proceedings. Never post about the way you are spending money or any new romantic relationships. Take caution when posting photos that may be up for interpretation. If you have doubts, it’s better not to post at all. Never post about attorney-client communications; you could potentially waive attorney client privilege by sharing this information on social media.
- Change your passwords. Change your passwords for all social media accounts, as well as email and other services such as Apple iCloud. In addition to changing passwords, you should change your security questions for account recovery so your spouse is unable to guess their way in. You may also consider disabling location tracking services on all of your electronic devices.
- Open a new email account. Utilize a new email address to conduct your personal business going forward. You can have your old emails forwarded to the new address so you don’t lose any communications.
- Review and secure your privacy settings on social media accounts. You should review all accounts to ensure that the ever-changing privacy settings are up to date. It is advisable to have your accounts set to the most secure settings to limit who has access to your information. You may also want to consider removing any friends and followers who may share what you post with your spouse. Keep in mind that the court may subpoena anyone with knowledge of what you have shared online to testify in your divorce and/or custody proceedings.
- Consult your lawyer. Some methods of finding online information are illegal while others are fair game. It is important to stay on the right side of the law with your attorney advising you on the correct approach. Some online information is admissible in court while other information isn’t. Laws governing social media and electronic data vary from state to state, so it is important to know what applies to the state you reside in.
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Partner at John F. Schutz, P.L.
Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.
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