Family Law and Facebook

By: Jenét G. Pequeño

July 22, 2015

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never been truer than in modern times where people so willingly place personal pictures on social media without thinking too critically as to how that can make them look.

Have you ever attended a family gathering where there was alcohol? If there is alcohol present in a picture, your ex can use this to portray you as a habitual alcoholic if you are in the same frame as the drink. An innocent social gathering can quickly turn into an alleged bender. While the courts do not prohibit individuals from having a drink of alcohol, a picture taken out of context can cause serious problems in family court for someone who was behaving responsibly. On the other hand, it can also give you a lot of ammunition against the other person.

If you are in litigation and you are still friends with your ex, it is in your best interest to immediately save any questionable pictures you see from their profile. Do not wait to ask a friend what you should do. In the time that it takes you to ask all your friends or tell them about the behavior and receive their responses, your ex may have deleted the incriminating pictures.

Pictures can also show valuable information, like geo-tagging. Many smart phones these days provide the option automatically when you snap a picture. Data is stored, capturing where the photo was taken and at what time. You usually have to open the photo in a software program to get those details, but the digital image does store that information.

Social media also offers an easy platform to voice your thoughts and opinions, but it’s best not to get into a public war of words. If someone posts defamatory things about you, fight the urge to defend yourself in a public forum. There is almost always no benefit. Do not send harassing messages either—it can be used against you in a variety of forms. Anything that makes a reasonable person feel emotional distress given the circumstances is considered harassment. Cursing, name calling, threats of physical force—any of that can be used by you in court or against you in court. Do not send messages out of anger.

This all seems like common sense, but it helps to hear it again. And when the situation arises where your ex posts something questionable on Facebook or sends a nasty message, do not feel bad about thinking twice before hitting send. If you message them the first things that come to mind, you will certainly be adding fuel to the fire. You can really help the situation by being calm and level-headed and not being quick to react. The only instant reaction you should have is if you need to save some questionable photos that may be needed later. Any delay could cause them to be deleted. Courts can and will use messages and photos from Facebook—be wise in how you use this and other forms of social media.

To discuss your case in more depth, call attorney Jenét G. Pequeño at 847-241-1793 for a free consultation, or send an email to jpequeno@lavellelaw.com.