Sharing divorce and custody related information

Posted on Apr 18, 2018 by Katie Carter

On Monday, I wrote about attorney client privilege, how it can be waived, and the potential ramifications that waiving privilege can have on your overall case. Obviously, attorney client privilege is important, and you should take every precaution to protect that privilege.

It comes up a lot in initial consultations, when our prospective clients want to bring someone else along. I get it – you’re upset, you want someone else to listen in, and you bring along someone else who knows the situation and can help you communicate it to the attorney. It’s a pretty high stress situation, and it can make you feel a little better to have mom or dad or your sister there for emotional support. People ask us all the time, “Is it okay if I bring someone with me?” The answer is always yes – but there’s a potential cost in terms of attorney client privilege. For more information about initial consultations, what to expect, and who or what to bring along with you, click here.

Sharing information related to your divorce is always risky, and you should tread carefully. These days, people don’t think twice about sharing information – whether its on social media, a crowdfunding site, or even to newspapers, magazines, or other traditional media sources. If you’ve got a divorce or custody case pending, though, you want to be very, very careful what you share, with whom, and where. It’s easy to think that what you’re sharing is innocuous, but often times even things that our clients don’t realize are issues…are.

Sharing information on social media

Social media is tricky. There’s no way around it. People are sharing information all over the place, with very little thought, and often with pictures or other information attached. By this time, we should probably all know that pictures shared on Facebook never, ever go away. You might take them down, but if someone kept the URL, they can find those images even after you’ve physically deleted them.
Not only that, but what you share can go all over the place, FAST. Sure, you can update your privacy settings and make it as strict as possible, but still – the very nature of a social media site is that what you share is NOT private.

Social media sites have an increasingly negative impact on divorce and custody cases, and information regarding these sites is often requested in discovery. We’ve requested total print outs of social media pages – including messages, pictures, status updates – in cases before, and we can go really, really far back. That information is archived forever, as far as I know. So, be careful what you post, and be careful what you share in messages. For more information, request a free copy of our report on social media in divorce and custody cases.

What CAN I share?

To be honest? Preferably nothing at all. It’s hard for silence to have a negative impact on your case, but if you’re posting status updates or pictures, they can be reviewed under super strict scrutiny.

If you MUST share, though, make sure you don’t share any pictures of you partying (or even just with a glass of wine in your hand), with a new boyfriend (or men that look like they might be your boyfriend), with your kids (because some judges don’t like pictures of kids shared on social media), etc. Stay away from passive aggressive updates, anything that speaks negatively about your child’s father, or using any curse words

or inappropriate language. You should seem like Mother Teresa in everything that you share.
Even still, social media is risky. I’d prefer nothing shared to anything you could possibly share, even if it doesn’t seem like it’d matter to you. (Or even if you think it’d put you in a positive light.) You might be surprised how often my clients think something is positive that isn’t positive at all – so, for safety’s sake, silence is the best option.

Can I just delete my accounts?

No, generally not. You can deactivate it temporarily, but deleting an account could look to the court like you’re trying to get rid of evidence, especially if a case has already been filed. You need to be careful – it could be spoliation of evidence.

You can deactivate, if you’d like, but the best bet is just to not share anything during the case.

What about crowdfunding and other sites?

Just like social media, you should be careful when you crowdfund. What you say about yourself and your situation can be used against you in court, especially if you’re saying that your child’s father isn’t paying support, you’ve been left homeless, or something else similarly traumatic has happened. Though it may be true, it’s best to NOT post this on what is essential a social site; these things are designed to be shared, and what you share there can work against you later on.

Talk to your attorney before you take ANY extra steps.

Can I blog about my experiences?

In a word? No. Keep anything you share online to a minimum during your divorce, especially if it has anything to do with your relationship status, your family, your finances, your kids, etc. It’s too risky.

What about requests for interviews from newspapers or other periodical publications?

Still – tread carefully. It may seem like the subject of your interview has nothing to do with your case, and maybe it doesn’t – but you should go over with your attorney what you’re planning beforehand. To the extent that the interview touches on sensitive topics (your marriage, divorce, separation, new relationships, your kids, etc), you should steer clear. Even professional or other topics aren’t without concern entirely, so you should make sure that what you share is on the up and up, and that you have complete editorial control over anything written before it is published. Ideally, your attorney would have the opportunity to review the article before publication as well. Seems too cautious? Well, there’s a lot at stake here.

For more information, or to talk to an attorney about what you’re planning, give our office a call at 757-425-5200. The best bet is to stay quiet. After all, you know what they say – loose lips sink ships!