Social media is a popular way to keep in touch and communicate with your loved ones, but it has also become an increasingly useful tactic to collect information for family law hearings. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are now being submitted as evidence in family law cases.
When you are going through a divorce, child custody, or placement battle with your ex, what you post on social media networks could come back to haunt you.
While it is not unusual for character witnesses to be called in family law cases, social sites can sometimes be used in a similar manner. Negative comments, images, offensive posts, and hostile interactions can all be submitted as evidence in custody cases. Partners can much more easily keep tabs on one another – and collect evidence against one another – by using social media.
Social Media Evidence in Hearings
Social media is affecting relationships and being used as ammunition in hearings. Lawyers can effectively use or defend against social media evidence in cases. According to the National Law Review,
- 81% of attorneys discover social networking evidence worth presenting in court.
- 66% of cases involving divorce employ Facebook as one of their principal evidence sources.
- 1/3 of all legal action in divorces cases is precipitated by affairs conducted online.
Not all evidence can be used in a divorce case. For example, an opposing attorney cannot open a fake account to “friend” or “connect” with their client’s spouse to obtain evidence.
Generally, public posts that can be inspected by anyone are fair game and can be submitted as evidence in court. If a “friend” or “connection” on a spouse’s social media account shares a post or text and that secondary post is seen by the spouse’s ex, that too, can typically be legally used as evidence in a divorce case.
What’s Fair Game and What’s Not
It is important to note that you should not delete items from your social media for the purpose of “hiding” bad evidence if you have a reason to believe that litigation may be coming. This may be considered spoliation of evidence.
In most cases, a spouse’s social media posts are admissible as evidence in the U.S. as long as you don’t obtain them illegally. An example of obtaining evidence illegally would be if your estranged husband or wife created a false account with the purpose of “following” you to collect damning evidence. It’s illegal for your ex to hack your accounts to try to gain evidence.
For many, using social media is second nature. However, it is worth discussing your situation with a family law attorney to determine the best way to deal with any social media evidence that may hurt your case.
Social Media Can Affect Parental Responsibilities and Parenting Time
Divorcing parents often have disagreements about child custody and visitation which is officially called the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time“ in Illinois. There are several ways that social media posts can influence child custody matters.
Imagine a scenario in which a husband and wife each want to have the majority of parenting time with the children. If the wife posts pictures of herself going out to bars several nights of the week when she is allegedly caring for the children, this could call into question her desire and ability to take on a large amount of parental responsibility.
It is important to remember that even if you have your social media account set to private, there are still many ways that your social media activity could be used against you during divorce proceedings. The best way to avoid negative consequences from social media during divorce may be to simply take a break from social media websites until the divorce is finalized.
It is important to be very cautious when using social media during divorce or other family law hearings. Masters Law Group takes social media into account when dealing with family law cases. Each case is uniquely different and the attorneys at Masters Law Group have the experience to help you during difficult times. Learn more and set up a consultation with us here today.