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As social media evolves, so does its use in divorce proceedings

Excess social media use has been linked to divorce, and things posted on social media sites can become fodder in a contentious divorce proceeding.

Social media has come a long way in just a few short years. From the early days of MySpace and Chat Roulette to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram of today, billions of people around the world are connected via social networking sites. For some people, their online relationships receive more attention than their real-life ones, something that can in itself bring about a divorce (if recent studies can be believed). For others, social media is simply an outlet for which to vent frustrations, garner support, reminisce about old times and “escape” from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Regardless of how you use social media, if you are involved in any family-related legal matter – like a divorce, child custody dispute, paternity case or spousal support dispute – you should know that anything you say, post, tweet, tag, update, upload or “like” on social media could possibly be used against you.

From the computer to the courtroom

Oftentimes, it is much easier to express anger or frustration online that it is in person. While sitting down at a computer, there is less of an internal filter that might temper our speech, allowing us to possibly use language or share details that can come back to haunt us. That risk is magnified when there is a pending legal matter. A survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers finds that over 80 percent of them have used social media evidence in the courtroom (or have had it used against their client).

This point is perhaps best demonstrated through an example.

Let’s assume that Mary is involved in a custody dispute with her soon-to-be ex-husband. After a particularly challenging day at work, she hires a babysitter for her two young children and meets a few friends for a drink at a local bar. Thinking nothing of it, she “checks in” at that location on her Facebook page.

Though she has “unfriended” him, her husband, Joe, whom she is currently fighting for custody, sees Mary’s activity through the Facebook feed of a mutual friend. He uses Mary’s social media activity in court, making it seem like she is an alcoholic and an unfit parent who shouldn’t be granted custody. This perception could be totally unfair, as Mary could have nursed a single drink the entire time while the children were in the care of a responsible sitter. Nonetheless, Joe’s argument could be persuasive to the judge deciding their custody case.

Staying safe by being social media savvy

While some divorce attorneys and judges would recommend a total social media “blackout” while a legal matter is pending, for some people that isn’t realistic, particularly if they have Facebook, Twitter or Google+ pages for business purposes. With that in mind, it is vitally important to use social media very carefully during this time. Here are some tips to keep your online life from being used against you:

  • Avoid posting anything related to the case
  • Do not, under any circumstances, give in to the temptation to rant about parties involved in the matter (including judges or attorneys)
  • Tell friends and family to avoid discussing the matter
  • Disable the ability for friends or family to “tag” you in photos or videos, no matter how old they are
  • Resist the temptation to “check in”

With diligence, you might be able to get your divorce while still enjoying social media. If you have any questions about the role of social media in divorce or custody cases, speak with a family law attorney.

Keywords: divorce, custody, child support, spousal support, alimony