Digital Privacy and Social Media in a Divorce
Most of us have done it...at some point in a relationship, we’ve all gotten suspicious about our significant other’s behavior, and decided to snoop through emails, text messages, and social media accounts.
As the use of the Internet and social media becomes more common in our culture, Pennsylvania divorce courts are increasingly receiving evidence of a spouse’s misbehavior through email, text, or social media accounts. Laptops have also been brought in the courtroom as evidence.
This issue, understandably, is controversial. The "right to privacy" is a huge precedent in American law. For the spouses who have personal pictures and conversations used against them, it’s painful and humiliating. Still, social media accounts are largely judged to be "public," and can be used to great effect in a divorce case.
In both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, a "digital privacy clause" can be added, stating that the spouses cannot reveal each other’s personal information in a divorce or court proceeding. This includes all devices: smartphones, computers, and tablets; plus, it prohibits the use of anything gathered on a laptop or cell phone in divorce proceedings.
This clause is becoming more popular amongst public figures whose career or reputation could be damaged if personal information got out.
Many divorce lawyers and their clients take advantage of personal information, including social media posts, to coerce or embarrass the opposing spouse into accepting a bad deal. Digital evidence can also be used in Pennsylvania to prove "fault" in a divorce; for example, a graphic text exchange between a married man and a coworker can be used to help his wife prove that he is guilty of "adultery" and caused the failure of the marriage.
Although sharing passwords and giving your spouse access to your social and banking accounts is a sign of trust, it can also be very harmful if the relationship goes sour. If things start to go wrong, it is best to make the necessary changes before it’s too late. To protect yourself:
- Change your passwords. Cut off all of your spouse’s access to your personal information as soon as possible. This will prevent account hijacking, and limit your spouse’s ability to use information from your accounts against you in a divorce case.
- Disable automatic logins. If you have your accounts on automatic login, your spouse doesn’t need to know your password in order to gain access and cause trouble.
- Secure wireless devices. Make sure you don’t have any devices linked together. For example: if both spouse have Apple devices, then they are probably under one account on iCloud and can easily access each other’s information.
- Cut off shared services. If you are sharing any streaming service with your spouse, it is best to cut that off as well.
- Use caution with social media. It is best to refrain from using social media while you are going through a divorce. Any misinterpretation can be used against you in court. The last thing you want is your own words used against you.
Having a digital privacy clause in place will save you a lot of trouble in the long run in case of divorce. The clause does not allow evidence found by snooping to be used in court. In a contentious case, you not only run the risk of public scrutiny of your private information, but it could also result in a loss of finances, assets, or even custody. Protect yourself and speak to an experienced Montgomery County family law attorney today.
If you are interested in learning more about digital privacy, our lawyers at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., can go over the details with you. Sheryl R. Rentz has over 25 years of experience with family law and divorce. Contact our office today for a free consultation at (866) 290-9292.
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