There is a seemingly endless stream of problems that can arise from social media and technology when it comes to divorce and family law. If you have spoken with a family lawyer lately, you likely heard a warning to be very careful about what you put on the internet. That is an important rule of thumb always, but especially if you are involved in a divorce or custody case. It is also important to be careful about how you search for information about the activities of a spouse or others.
This is becoming such an important topic that a few hundred North Carolina family lawyers recently met in Greensboro specifically to learn about the criminal and civil liabilities that can arise for ourselves and our clients from various digital activities. The program addressed a number of the topics, some of which I’ve addressed in earlier blog posts, but one important additional topic is “spoliation.” Spoliation of evidence is the legal term for when someone deletes or destroys evidence that is potentially relevant in a case.
If a party in a divorce or other family law matter intentionally deletes social media posts, for example, because they might be damaging to the case, that person might be guilty of spoliation. The party, and his or her lawyer if the lawyer advised it, can be sanctioned or otherwise in trouble with the court. At the beginning of a case, a lawyer will often send a “spoliation letter” to the opponent or anyone else who has relevant evidence, warning them to preserve the evidence that must be turned over. This is another reason to be very cautious about what you share online — you may not be able to delete it in the future without causing significant problems.
So, if you are concerned about things you may have posted online in the past, be very careful about “cleaning up” your Facebook page or deleting old Tweets and emails. You may cause yourself bigger problems if you get caught destroying evidence. Think twice before you post anything online, and if you are in the middle of a case and are worried about your social media presence, talk to your lawyer about your concerns.