Have you ever stopped to think how child custody, support, or property division could be affected by social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and various dating websites? Make no mistake – anything you post, tweet, or “snap” can and most likely will be used against you in settlement negotiations or in the courtroom.
Statistics regarding time spent on social media sites are overwhelming: users share nearly 2.5 billion pieces of content on Facebook and over forty million photos on Instagram every day. In 2007, Twitter went from handling 20,000 tweets per day to sixty-five million by 2010.
Attorneys Use Social Media as Evidence
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conducted a study in 2010 that revealed eight out of ten attorneys reported utilizing social media sites to discover evidence in divorce proceedings. Not surprisingly, Facebook was the main source of compromising information.
Consider the following examples of how social media could negatively impact your divorce or other proceeding:
- Husband alleges having insufficient income to pay support obligations. Wife sees Husband tagged in a mutual friend’s Facebook photo wherein Husband is on a lavish vacation.
- Wife posts a Snapchat drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs while amid a custody dispute.
- Husband inflates his income and assets on Match.com to impress potential romantic partners.
- Children view a parent’s Instagram post where their father is spending time with, and purchasing lavish gifts for a new romantic partner, instead of exercising parenting time.
- Wife advertises a lucrative side business on LinkedIn that she failed to disclose during discovery.
Posts of this nature will directly impact a spouse’s credibility before he or she steps foot into settlement negotiations or the courtroom. Such posts are especially detrimental for a spouse hiding assets or failing to disclose income during discovery later found on social media. As anyone going through a divorce will quickly learn, the Rule 401 Financial Statement, which discloses all income, expenses, assets, and liabilities, is one of the most important documents in every case. Failing to list income and assets on the financial statement that are later discovered on social media will create long-lasting credibility issues.
It is important to realize that social media posts leave an everlasting trail. Even deleting a post, tweet, “snap”, or photo does not ensure permanent deletion. It is very likely this potential evidence can be accessed long after you hit the “delete” button, especially throughout the discovery process, including subpoenas.
Questionable Content? Don’t Post it!
Divorce presents emotionally charged scenarios. Why complicate the process by leaving your spouse with a trail of your social media evidence?
As Bob Dylan once wrote “The times they are a changin’.” With the infusion of social media into our everyday lives, the discovery process is changing as well. Be careful to avoid oversharing and avoid posting anything on social media sites that would be troubling for your spouse, or more importantly, a judge, to read.
If you have concerns about how social media can impact your divorce, consult with an attorney at Next Phase Legal today.
Julianna Zitz is an Associate Attorney at Next Phase Legal LLC in Norfolk, MA where she helps clients through the divorce process, including issues such as child support, alimony, parenting and custody, and prenuptial agreements.