In family court, judges are given a "bucket" of information that is very limited. In that bucket, your lawyer needs to include the good things about you and the legitimately bad things about your spouse, and your spouse's lawyer needs to do the opposite. Most issues in family court involve money or character in some way.
Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Myspace make it much easier to get information about these things, which can then be included in the bucket given to the judge. In a 2010 survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81% of lawyers responded that they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years.
Examples of how social networking can harm your case:
If you post pictures or updates about vacations, purchases, or lots of entertainment expenses, you can create the impression that you have money to burn. If you are requesting alimony or trying to avoid paying alimony, such updates can be damaging to your case. They can also be damaging if you are trying to reduce an alimony or child support obligation.
If you post about social activities, especially going on dates or drinking, it could be detrimental to your custody case. Such activities can be construed as you failing to focus on the child's needs, especially if you are posting about doing those things while the children are in your care.
If you often post about daily frustrations ("OMG! WHY CAN'T THIS *!%& TRAFFIC MOVE!"), your posts could be used to paint a picture of you as having anger management problems, which could be damaging to a custody case or if you are trying to defend against an allegation of physical cruelty.
If you have public flirtatious communications, your spouse could attempt to show that you are inclined to be adulterous. Such communication alone is not enough to prove adultery in South Carolina, but "flirty" is still not a desirable trait to be thrown into the judge's bucket.
If you describe yourself as "single" while still married or say you have "no children" when you do have children, you are deceiving others. Again, deceitful is not a positive trait. And lying about the existence of your children can be especially damaging when you are fighting for custody of them.
If you comment about your case, this can be perceived as airing your dirty laundry or gossiping about your spouse/ex-spouse. In the judge's eyes, there is a difference between talking privately to a friend and posting a Facebook status for your 500+ friends to see. Such posts can be particularly damaging if you are friends with your children, and even more so if you have been ordered not to share facts of the case with them.
What can you do to prevent being burned by social networking?
1. Consider deleting your profiles while your case is going on.
2. Understand that nothing you post can be deleted. Once it is on the internet, it stays on the internet forever, even if it is no longer posted on your profile.
3. Think before you post and sanitize your profile. Do not talk about your case, and do not allow others to talk about your case.
4. Change your passwords. It is likely that your spouse/ex-spouse has your passwords or knows enough about you to figure them out. Change them to something that no one knows.
5. Use private communication features rather than public ones.
6. Use the privacy settings provided. On Facebook, specifically, you can create "lists" of people and then restrict what each list can see of your profile. This could be incredibly useful for hiding your wall or pictures. Also consider not allowing anyone to tag you in their pictures.
7. Be careful of friending people you have in common with your spouse. Even if your spouse does not have access to your profile, he or she may be able to get someone who has access to help.
8. Be suspicious of sudden friend requests from people you hardly know. Such people could be imposters attempting to gain access to your profile.
9. Above all, do not put anything online that you do not want a judge to see!