Social media has connected our entire world to the palm of our hands. With more than 300 million users on social media in the United States, it is no wonder that more and more individuals know what is going on in the lives of their friends, family, and neighbors without ever having heard a phone call.
From birthdays to heartwrenching stories about the untimely passing of a loved one, it seems as if more and more individuals are seeking aid, comfort, support, and just a listening ear all through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, and TikTok.
While many individuals view social media as a form of private diary that is only viewable to those whom they want to see, the reality is, that is not the case. If an individual finds themselves going through a divorce, they may need to give access to their divorce attorney. Social media content can be used as evidence in a divorce case, being used to demonstrate how one person’s behavior or habits makes them unfit to be a parent or to show cases of infidelity.
If you find yourself facing a divorce, it is important that you are hyper-aware of what you post or say online, as these posts are no longer just for you and your loved ones. Alison Grant, Attorney at Law, understands how stressful going through a divorce can be and works with her clients to ensure that they are receiving the best possible outcome for their case. When it comes to social media accounts, she doesn’t hold anything against her clients and instead, comes up with an action plan to ensure that those posts cannot be twisted around to serve the desires of the other spouse.
To aid with this process, her legal team has created this guide to show how social media accounts can affect your divorce case. Here is what you need to know:
What Does Social Media Show During a Divorce Case?
Many individuals are shocked when they learn that they have to turn over access to their social media accounts during a divorce case. It is understandable, considering that many Americans consider their social media accounts to be private. However, these posts provide valuable information about yourself, your actions, and the company you keep. For example, your social media accounts can be used to show the following:
- One of the spouses had extra-marital affairs.
- One of the spouses, who claimed to be unemployed, either had got a new job or had one that they failed to report. (This is often the case when one individual tries to get out of paying child or spousal support.)
- Be evidence that one of the spouses bought a new home, car, or other large purchase even though they claimed they did not have enough money to pay for spousal or child support.
- Show evidence of a new engagement ring or a new baby during the process of the divorce proceeding.
- There is inappropriate material regarding either spouse, such as instances of pornography.
- There is inappropriate behavior from either spouse or towards the children, such as child neglect or drug or alcohol abuse.
Does a Court Look At Social Media Accounts?
Yes. It may be hard to imagine that the picture you posted of you and your friends having lunch at a nice restaurant could be used against you in a court of law, but it does happen. Social media, whether it is seen legally through one’s account due to them either being friends or either spouse neglecting to set their privacy settings to friends and family only or access to an account was granted due to a court order, plays a part in divorce proceedings today. Here are a few statistics that put this new reality into perspective:
- One in five divorces had Facebook being cited in the United States in 2009.
- There has been an 81% increase in cases using social media as evidence,
- About 66% of divorce evidence is taken from online sources, such as Facebook accounts, and is considered a primary online source.
What Are the Reasons That Individuals Cite Social Media?
Most common reasons that either spouse would cite social media as evidence to show their reasons behind seeking a divorce are as follows:
- Many individuals show social media posts as a cause of jealousy in their relationships.
- Either spouse complains that the other spends too much time on social media.
- Either spouse claims the other spouse is hiding social media posts from the other or hidden messages,
- Either spouse is accusing the other one of having secret social media accounts.
- Either spouse is engaging in fights on social media, either with a friend, family member, or a stranger.
What Is My Divorce Attorney Legally Allowed to Use From My Social Media Accounts?
Divorces, in general, are not easy. They are often messy, involve a lot of fighting and hard feelings, and can make anyone going through it feel as if their entire lives have suddenly become exposed. When it comes to giving access to your attorney for your social media accounts, you may be feeling a bit uneasy. What can they legally use? What can the other side legally use against you? Here is the reasoning behind why the United States Court and Texas Courts have deemed social media content usable as evidence:
- Using social media posts as evidence does not violate any privacy laws because there is no expectation of privacy when posting online.
- Posts can be relevant to the case and give a clear view of the state of that relationship or that individual.
- Using posts as evidence does not violate any privilege.
It is important to note that the same can be said for e-mail correspondence, text messages, and computer hard drives. However, these may need a special court order to be applicable in the case.
Requests to make social media accounts admissible as evidence are granted by the court. Either divorce attorney can legally do the following:
- Request the names of all social media sites either side uses or used, including usernames, passwords, and internet addresses.
- Attorneys can send a “friend request” to the targeted party and use the information from the account if the friend request is accepted. This is also true if a friend of the client does it on their behalf.
- Subscribers to dating sites can be forced to hand over the questionnaires filled out to subscribe to the account.
What Should I Do With My Social Media Accounts During a Divorce?
Keeping these general tips in mind about what you should do with your social media accounts during a divorce can aid in keeping you out of trouble or making your case worse.
- Follow the legal advice of your divorce attorney.
- Change your social media passwords and limit public access to your accounts.
- Inform your friends and family about your intent to seek a divorce and ask them not to post about your spouse.
- Remove your spouse and their friends from your social media pages.
- Consider deactivating your social media accounts.
- Try to maintain a civil relationship with your spouse during this time and do not post anything derogatory against them.
What Should I Not Do With My Social Media Accounts During My Divorce?
As with knowing what you should do, knowing what you shouldn’t do can also keep you safe from making matters worse in your divorce case:
- Do not post any pictures of yourself partying, drinking, or using drugs.
- Do not speak about your spouse negatively or engage in conversations regarding them online. (This includes supposedly anonymous sites such as Reddit).
- Do not try to contact your spouse through social media platforms.
- Do not boast about significant changes to your job or your living situation.
- Do not trust privacy settings alone to hide your online activity.
- Do not create any new social media accounts during this time or new email addresses.
- Tell your friends to not tag you in photos that could either harm your reputation or show you in a major life change such as getting a new car or house.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney
If you are considering a divorce, you will want experienced legal representation on your side. Alison Grant, Attorney at Law is Lewisville, Texas and the surrounding areas trusted family law attorney. She can help you navigate through the divorce process and ensure that the other side is not twisting your words or situation around. She ensures that your voice is being heard and fights to claim the best outcome for your situation. Divorce is incredibly difficult but you do not have to walk this journey alone. Contact Alison Grant, Attorney at Law today to schedule a consultation to go over the specifics of your case.
Divorce and Social Media FAQs
Unfortunately, the statistics show that social media is the cause of one out of seven divorces.
The number one cause of divorce is a lack of commitment, which is followed closely behind financial challenges, and infidelity.
There are several reasons why social media creates a rift between couples. Most common complaints include:
1. One spouse is spending too much time on social media
2. One spouse is venting about their marital issues on social media platforms, which fuels fights within the home