If I was asked to name my closest friends, I would probably rattle off about five to eight people. I am pretty certain I would be hard pressed to rattle off the names of the 402 people I am friends with on Facebook. Does that mean 393 people on Facebook are not my friends? Of course not. I would say many of them were close friends at different points in my life such as grammar school or high school. But none of us can realistically keep up with 402 friends. And if you are engaged in litigation with your spouse , former spouse, or your child’s parent, you need to be careful of those 393 friends because they may be frenemies.
Wikipedia says frenemy is a “portmanteau of "friend" and "enemy" which can refer to .. an enemy disguised as a friend.” When couples are happily married (or at the least getting along) there are less frenemies on your list of friends but when litigation begins, friends quickly take sides. Your neighbor, Susan, from across the street may be grateful that you helped her change a tire last year but she may really be your wife’s friend and not yours. Your brother in law, Bob, may be a great guy and may think his brother is a real jerk but he is still his brother and not your friend. Therefore, it is important to take a look at your social networking sites before and during litigation.
- Check your privacy controls. Ensure that only friends can see your page and not friends of friends or the general public.
- Untag photos of you doing unfavorable things. If you would be embarrassed if your mom saw the photo, then untag it.
- Consider limiting your posting. If you are addicted to Facebook, consider limiting who can see your post to only your real friends.
- If you cannot censor your posting, then you need to consider de-friending people who also may be friends with your spouse/former spouse.
- Refrain from discussing your case on a social networking site. This can have detrimental consequences to your case. Although not related to family law, for a cautionary tale of why discussing your case is a no-no check out this post on Above the Law.
- Think before you post. Will your post escalate litigation? Will it prompt a response from your spouse’s attorney?
- Do not post when you are emotional. You may regret your words when you post in an emotional state. Remember the drunk dialing of your college years? Same idea here.
- Do not post what you are doing this weekend or who you are going out with. If you don’t want your ex to know your business, then don’t post it on the internet.
- Do not use the “check in” feature. Absolutely never use this feature if you have been a victim of violence in your relationship.
Remember data lives forever. We would have never imagined that Adriana’s 1996 post to a newsgroup would still be on the internet in 2011 but it is. Nor would Elizabeth have imagined that her undergraduate college website would still be active so many years after graduation.
I’ll leave the comment thread open on this post. Feel free to share other advice on limiting your social networking during litigation.