The Impact of Social Media on Divorce Cases
Social media is firmly enmeshed in the lives of millions of Americans, and its influence often extends far beyond the confines of the computer screen. People invest a lot of time and effort into creating and maintaining a social media presence, and a considerable amount of personal and professional information is routinely divulged to family, friends and strangers alike. One area where the free disclosure of information online could hurt someone is divorce. Social media is becoming an ever-growing presence in divorce cases, and has the potential to both help and hurt each spouse. Depending on the content and intended use, social media posts can be used as evidence in a divorce trial. Further, social media posts and texts can also have a significant impact on settlement negotiations, especially if the party believed the information was shared privately. Given how social media is now viewed as an online extension of a person, understanding how this ubiquitous aspect of life can influence the outcome of a divorce is important in order to limit its effect.
What Can Be Used in Court
Emails and texts are admissible as evidence in court, and are also subject to subpoena if the information requested is likely to produce relevant information. While a judge is unlikely to allow a party to go on a fishing expedition and demand access to any and all electronic communication sent/received by a spouse, if certain records are expected to reveal pertinent information, especially financial, requests for the documents are likely to be granted. However, Florida, being a no-fault divorce state, will not allow parties to use social media posts, texts or emails to reveal embarrassing information that has no effect on the final outcome, like evidence of an affair. The key matters in most divorce cases relate to finances and child custody, and online postings and electronic communications that show a spouse is hiding assets, depleting the marital bank account, or posing a danger to the child, for example, are all up for consideration by the court when making its final decision.
Pitfalls of Social Media
A lot of people have a habit of posting every aspect of their lives on social media, and if the information posted online conflicts with claims made to the court, these posts could directly impact how a judge views the case. Social media is particularly useful for refuting claims by a party about their lack of ability to pay support and/or to expose hidden assets. While divorcing spouses are likely to block access to posts to the other party, they likely still share mutual friends who can keep them informed on updates about expensive vacations, job promotions and large purchases. In addition, social media posts that show a parent is engaging in irresponsible or reckless behavior during his/her time with the child (doing drugs in the child’s presence, driving intoxicated with the child in the car, etc.) can be used to support a claim for sole custody or restricted parenting time.
The best way a person can protect themselves from the potential negative impact of social media on a divorce case is to stop using it until the case is concluded. At the very least, limit posts to things that are acceptable to say in person to anyone at any time. Finally, resist the urge to delete posts that appear problematic. Altering evidence can lead a court to sanction a party, and view the lost evidence in favor of the other spouse. Engaging in this activity is not worth the potential consequences.
Consult a Divorce Attorney
Divorce is an emotional time that is only made harder by the foreign legal process needed to end the marriage. Instead of bearing all this weight alone, work with an experienced divorce attorney, like Joyce A. Julian, P.A., who can take the responsibility for the legal process off your shoulders. Joyce A. Julian represents clients in the Fort Lauderdale area, and is here to answer all your questions. Contact her office today for a free consultation.