The popularity of reality television and social media websites has transformed our society from one that places a high value on privacy into one where complete strangers observe every facet of an individual’s life. This trend also has spread to family courts where information and photos obtained from social media sites are increasingly turning up as evidence in divorce cases. Whether the damning information is evidence of an online affair or a negative comment about a spouse, social media sites are becoming a key source of evidence in divorce cases.
Eighty percent of divorce lawyers in the United States report that evidence obtained from social networks has increased during recent years according to ABC News. Two-thirds of this evidence comes from Facebook. Further, twenty percent of U.S. divorces are at least partially caused by information discovered by a spouse on Facebook. This information is regularly making its way into divorce cases according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The organization indicates that 81 percent of its attorneys have either encountered or used information taken from social media sites in a divorce.
Private Information on a Social Media Site Is a Myth
A key miscalculation made by many people involved in marital dissolutions is that private areas of a social media website are actually private. Many divorces are based on discoveries by a spouse who hacks into a marital partner’s “private” email or social media site. This type of snooping is increasingly easy to accomplish with key log trackers and other hacking tools. In other cases, courts order parties to a divorce to provide login information to a spouse during a divorce. The best way to view social media during a divorce is to assume that every status update, private message and photo will be viewed by your spouse. If you would not want your spouse to see the information, you should not post it on a social media site.
How Facebook Could Adversely Impact Timesharing by a Parent
The scope of information that can be damaging in a divorce is broader than some people recognize. Photos of a parent who is intoxicated or using drugs can impact a child custody dispute. The other parent may claim that the spouse depicted in the photo has a substance abuse problem. Even if you do not test positive, the extent of your timesharing could be impacted until the court has an opportunity to issue new orders based on the results of the drug test. Any parenting time prior to the results of the drug test might be supervised. Parents should never post anything on their Facebook page or other social media site that depicts conduct which could be construed to be detrimental to their child’s well-being.
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Some parents post information on their social media site that does not specifically depict behavior that is detrimental to a child, but it can adversely impact a co-parenting relationship in other ways. Pictures of a parent with a new paramour spending time with your children can enhance negative feelings and make the process of working out a timesharing arrangement more difficult. There is little to be gained by posting information and photos that will incite more acrimonious fighting and potentially confuse your kids.
Financial Matters: Using Facebook as a Discovery Tool
When you are involved in a marital dissolution, your financial condition, including assets, debts, income and expenses will be put under a microscope. While you are required to provide financial disclosures to your spouse during divorce, the discovery process is used to fill in the blanks and develop a complete financial picture of the parties. Many spouses have their position on alimony or the equitable distribution of property derailed by online social media posts. A shiny new boat or ATV can undermine claims of financial need or inability to pay in an alimony dispute. Similarly, an extravagant lifestyle depicted online in the form of vacations and expensive toys can have a significant impact on alimony and/or an equitable distribution award.
If you are involved in a Florida divorce, you should be extremely cautious of any information you post online. Electronic communication through instant chats and email also can be a problem. During a divorce, you should assume that your spouse’s attorney will subpoena any of the following postings or communications:
- Blog post and blog comments
- Instant messages
A little bit of caution now will prevent a mistake that you cannot take back later.