Family Law 101: Don’t Do Stupid Stuff on Facebook

There is so much to say about social media and family law—perhaps a small book is in order. I will add that to my list of things to do. In the meantime, however, Facebook has an overlooked option that is a game-changer and deserves its own post.

I don’t know that it has a name, but the concept is simple: Facebook now allows you to download your entire Facebook history into a .zip file. It creates several different folders—one for photos, one for videos, and a bunch of .html files (basically web pages) that have all your messages, posts, friends, status updates, photo albums, etc. Between this download and your activity log, there is a convenient, easily accessed record of everything you’ve ever done on Facebook.facebook social media

I won’t call this a full-blown divorce-lawyer miracle, but it’s definitely somewhere between “boon” and “blessing.” Most adults have Facebook, and (anecdotally) most of the people who will go through a divorce or child-custody battle have put valuable evidence about their case on Facebook.

And it’s not just that one’s Facebook might reveal a so-called “smoking gun”—the admission of infidelity or drug use or hiding assets—although that would obviously be nice. The information in this download is comprehensive enough to lead a careful reviewer to other things. The way many adults use Facebook, this download is like a daily diary of the last several years of your life. It would give any private investigator the bread-crumbs to find what would ordinarily be hidden, or at least very difficult to find.

This feature not only makes this information available, it is now far easier to review. Most any piece of information will be eventually be available with enough time, effort, and skill, but this download is easy. It doesn’t take any advanced security equipment or stakeouts or data mining. All it takes is a discovery request, a Dropbox link, and the opposing party having a free evening to do some electronic dumpster-diving. The popcorn is optional.

All of this takes me back to the place I usually get on these issues, and I’ll try my best not to be paternalistic: If you want to survive family law litigation and make sure your interests are protected, you need to be above reproach. Very few people are able to hide their misdeeds forever and from everyone. Most of these cases are won on good facts, not good law—make sure your facts are good.