In today’s society, social media is widely ingrained in our daily lives—whether it be for business or social purposes, most everyone has utilized social media in some capacity at some point in their lives. What has the power to be a great tool for networking and sharing special moments with loved ones, can double as ammunition in a divorce case if you’re not careful. In a world where oversharing has become the norm, it’s important to understand how your social media presence can be used against you in a legal case.
Can A Court Consider Evidence from Social Media?
Courts have ruled that social media content is usable as evidence in a divorce, support, or custody case. This is justified because it does not violate any privilege nor privacy, because there is no expectation of privacy.
How Much Harm Can Social Media Do in a Divorce Case?
Today, social media is the cause behind one in seven divorces. These platforms not only have the power to aid in marriages ending—they significantly affect divorce proceedings and weaken a case. One of the first places your future ex-partner’s divorce lawyer will look for incriminating evidence against you is your social media presence. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, there has been an 81% increase in cases using social networking as evidence, and about 66% of divorce evidence found online comes from Facebook, making it the primary online source for discovery. Even seemingly harmless pictures or statements that you make online can cause legal headaches later… factor child custody into the mix, the material you post can make you seem like an unfit parent.
How Would an Attorney Access Social Media Content?
An attorney can request the names of all social media sites the other party uses/used, including usernames, passwords, and Internet addresses. Members from a legal team can “friend” the targeted party and use information from the account if accepted, or the client can have a friend do it on their behalf. Additionally, subscribers to dating sites typically can be forced to hand over the questionnaires filled out to subscribe.
Social Media Posting Before a Divorce is Filed:
In the days or weeks leading up to your divorce, it may be tense between you and your future ex. No matter how angry or hurt you are, this is the time to avoid posting anything negative about your partner. Even if you decide to split, don’t post pictures of you partying, consuming intoxicants, or keeping company with a suspicious person. It’s also a smart decision to inform your family and friends of your intent to divorce and remind them not to post negative comments about your spouse online. If the divorce is not amicable, remove your spouse from your social media profiles, make the accounts private, and scour your friend’s list for potential informants who may monitor your activities.
Social Media Posting During a Divorce Proceeding:
If you’re in the midst of a divorce proceeding, you’ll want to limit your social media use and even consider temporarily deactivating your accounts. Avoid chatting with your ex or their friends, and do not post pictures of yourself that could harm your custody case if you have children. Whatever you do, never speak ill of your ex or try to provoke them with your posts. Also, resist trying to use your friends and family members to gather information about your ex. It is time to distance yourself and protect your case from going awry. Consider reaching an agreement with your ex about posting pictures of your children.
Social Media Posting After a Divorce is Finalized:
Regardless of your relationship, your social media use must change permanently to protect the agreements you made in court. If there are issues that can harm your custody agreement, a divorce lawyer can use them to change the terms. Changes in your lifestyle can lead to a change in the terms of your support. For example, if there is child support ordered and you post about a significant promotion in your job, your ex can use that information to move to adjust child support payments.
It is too late to control past behavior on social media. However, you can control what you post from here forward. Your best bet is to keep a low profile and refrain from sharing anything that can be misinterpreted or used against you. If you have any questions about social media use in a divorce or would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys, you can contact our office by calling (503) 227-0200.