According to recent estimates, Facebook now boasts more than 1.4 billion—yes, billion with a “b”—monthly active users. To put that number into perspective, that is more than four times the population of the entire United States. People use Facebook and other social media sites for a wide variety of reasons, both professionally and recreationally, and the ease of communication afforded by them is nearly unparalleled. However, when you are going through a divorce, the use of social media should be accompanied by a Miranda-type warning: “Anything you post can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
Increase in Cell Phone and Social Media Evidence
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) recently conducted a survey of its members regarding the impact of cell phones and social media on divorce cases. Almost every respondent (97 percent) reported an increase in cases affected by evidence taken from cell phones and social media apps. While text-message data was the most commonly cited source of the increase, social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provided a significant source of information as well.
Context is Vital… and Missing
The overwhelming concern about social media use, especially during divorce, is that images and information posted are often presented without the context necessary for understanding the true situation. Consider a couple that has separated in the midst of a bitter divorce. One night, the husband goes out for dinner and drinks with friends, and after several drinks, a woman that he does not know well leans in to speak to him over the music. As she does, another person in the group takes a picture and uploads it to Facebook, “tagging” the husband in the photo.
A picture now exists on the internet, with absolutely no context, of the husband and a woman, who is not his wife, leaning closely together over drinks. As a result, the wife is understandably bothered by this and gives the picture to her attorney to use as evidence that she should be granted sole custody of their children. However, in her anger, she also takes to Facebook and makes a comment to the effect of “I can’t stand him. He’s never going to see the kids!” Now, another piece of potential “evidence” exists to be used against the wife during the divorce proceedings.
Develop a Safe Social Media Strategy
As you approach your divorce, a qualified lawyer can help you create a plan for social media use throughout the process. The most basic thing to keep in mind, however, is that online social media is a public forum. Even “private messages” or time-limited posts on apps like Snapchat can find their way into the courtroom. Avoid posting anything that you would not want a judge to see, even if you think you are safe to do so. You never know what could end up as evidence in your case.
For more information on protecting your rights during divorce, contact one of the experienced Kane County divorce attorneys at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C.. We will review your case and help you understand your available options. Divorce is never easy, but we can reduce the difficulty by providing the high-quality legal representation you deserve.