Can Social Media Be Used in Divorce Cases?
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are go-to sources for news and updates about friends and family. In the past few years, they’ve also become sources of evidence for attorneys handling an array of different cases, including divorce and family law-related matters. If you’re currently going through the divorce process, we encourage you to consider the potential repercussions of posting on social media platforms about your experience, your family life, and / or your relationship status. Doing so could provide opposing counsel with exactly the “evidence” they’re looking for to make a case against you.
How Is Social Media Used in Litigation?
In some divorce litigation cases, social media profiles have been used to reveal personal details about one or both parties’ lives. Simply by reviewing the information posted on a person’s social media profile, we may be able to determine:
- The person’s state of mind at the time he or she was posting
- Communication between the divorcing parties – or communication in reference to the divorcing parties
- Evidence of actions taken by one or both parties, as well as the time and place of these actions
Before the rise of Facebook and other social media platforms, extensive research was conducted, private investigators were hired, and friends and family were questioned – all to gather the same type of information that can now often be found by reading through a person’s posting history.
It takes virtually no time at all to “check in” somewhere on Facebook; to tag a friend on Instagram; to save a picture on Pinterest...yet, these are all mediums and platforms that can later be called upon in court to supply a judge or jury with evidence of your recent lifestyle / intentions / behaviors / etc. In fact, the trend has grown so rapidly that the old saying, “think before you speak” could be revised to “think before you post.”
Critical Court Decisions that Could Affect Your Case
The past 5-6 years have yielded critical court decisions that could affect your divorce case. Take a look at the following, for example:
- September 2010: Romano v. Steelcase, Inc.
Divorcing parties may be granted full access to data on Facebook and Myspace, including private and / or deleted data.
- May 2011: Zimmerman v. West Markets, Inc.
Divorcing parties may be ordered to hand over login information (usernames and passwords) for social networking sites.
- November 2011: Largent v. Reed
Facebook is not bound by any offer of “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The bottom line? If you’re going through a contested divorce, heated custody battle, or any other type of legal situation that requires court appearances, your social media accounts could become part of your case. Think twice before posting about arguments, feelings, relationship statuses and the like. You may even want to consider modifying your friend lists, changing your privacy settings, or taking a “leave of absence” from your social media accounts altogether.
If you have questions or concerns about how your social media accounts could work against you in an upcoming divorce, contact Moore, Schulman & Moore, APC.