Author’s note by Attorney Howard Iken: Social media has become a significant part of people’s personal and professional lives. However, during a divorce in Florida, social media activity may be scrutinized, and even private information may be used against you in child custody or financial issues. Posting about expensive assets, luxury vacations, or even venting about your spouse can negatively impact your divorce case. Additionally, pictures of you drinking and driving or using drugs may be used to challenge your fitness as a parent. The best practice during a pending divorce is to avoid using social media websites or discussing this issue with your Florida divorce attorney before posting anything.
Social media websites have become a dominant form of communication used by many to keep in touch with family and friends. Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Myspace, and others have fundamentally changed the way we interact with one another, share opinions on political and social issues, maintain long-range relationships, and conduct research and gather information. Whether you use social media websites to keep customers apprised of developments with your business or to maintain contact with distant relatives, websites like Facebook have become intrinsic parts of the professional and social lives of many people throughout Florida and the U.S. Because logging in to post daily activities and events on Facebook has become such second nature for many people, they often do not recognize the potential impact social media activity can have on the Florida divorce process.
When you are involved in the marital dissolution process in Florida, both parties to the divorce will find that many aspects of their lives come under close scrutiny. Much of the information posted on social media websites is open for anyone to review often with motives that are not in your best interest. Even when information, status updates, instant messages, and pictures are posted in private areas on a social media site, this supposedly private information may be used to adversely affect you on financial or child custody issues during a Florida divorce. While it may be tempting to assume that you do not have to worry about comments made while you are venting to a friend on Facebook being used against you because they are password protected in a private area of the website, a Florida judge may order you to provide login information to your social media websites as part of the discovery process during your marital dissolution.
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People are often much less inhibited when it comes to posting on social media sites than they would be in person, and it is common for people to post the most private aspects of their lives online. Even those who believe they are careful about what they post on Facebook or Tweet to friends should be cautioned that information, which appears benign can often have unforeseen consequences in a divorce.
Facebook posts revealing discretionary, expensive, or luxury assets can be used as evidence of your ability to pay child support or alimony as well as the marital standard of living. Posting pictures of luxury cars, boats, expensive vacations or even the brand new HD TVs in your living room can create an impression of wealth, discretionary income, and conspicuous consumption that can adversely affect your interest on the issues of spousal or child support and the equitable division of property. Pictures of vacations or photos of you with friends also can be used as evidence of the date of separation or be used against you to prove allegations of infidelity.
It is natural during an emotional divorce to feel the need to blow off steam, but it is essential to realize that disparaging comments about your spouse posted to social media sites could impact parenting plans and timeshare arrangements. Florida family law judges view disparaging comments made about the other parent in a divorce in a negative light, especially if the children of the relationship have the ability to be exposed to these comments. If you post photos on a social media site that show you drinking and driving or using illicit drugs, these photos may be used to challenge your fitness as a parent.
The best practice is to abstain from using social media websites during a pending divorce or alternatively to discuss this issue with your Florida divorce attorney before posting information or photos. If you do post updates and images on your Facebook site during your divorce, you should assume that the other party will see everything you post and proceed accordingly.