Family Law... What's Your Social Media Strategy?

Anne McFarlane – February 2016

Social media is a great way to stay connected with friends and family near and far. Whether it’s posting pictures of the kids’ hockey game or a status update about your promotion at work, social media provides a forum to keep your network “in the loop.” These sites are also a form of entertainment for most people, who love being just a click away from the latest updates.

During a relationship breakdown, social media sites take on a whole new role. These previously fun and entertaining sites become a wealth of personal information for an ex-partner who may be looking to make a claim against you. Even the most well-intentioned posts may become fuel for the fire.

Judges in the Nova Scotia family courts have begun accepting social media posts into evidence. This includes status updates, pictures, and even private messages. These posts have been used in a whole slew of family matters to raise issues about parenting, support payments, you name it.

It is always best to post as little as possible on your social media accounts during the course of a separation. For those of you not using your accounts, just delete them all together until your family matter has been resolved. But if you can’t bear the thought of shutting down your social media sites (like many of us!), use them with caution.

A good practice is to ask yourself “would I want a judge to see this?” before you post. You may also want to consider updating your privacy settings to limit the exposure your social media accounts can receive.

There are some obvious types of posts that you should steer clear of during your separation. Offensive language, graphic content, and threatening language may cause major red flags for your ex’s lawyer, or worse, a family court judge. Avoid “airing your dirty laundry” and posting about your separation.

The contents of your discussion with your family lawyer should stay as far away from social media as possible. The information shared with your lawyer is privileged and should be treated as confidential.

You should also be aware of what your friends and family members are posting about you, especially your children. Although your own posts are within your control, you often find out someone has posted something about you after it’s too late. Discuss your own personal preferences with your friends and family and (again), consider changing your privacy settings to limit what you can be “tagged” in without your consent.

If you have any questions regarding your use of social media, be sure to ask your lawyer for advice that is specific to your family law matter.

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