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Social Media and Divorce Custody Cases
Rules of Evidence determine what type of documents and testimony are allowed by the court as evidence during a trial. Generally, these rules are fairly relaxed in family law proceedings—meaning that the parties are generally allowed to offer any relevant evidence. This is especially true when it comes to evidence related to the best interest of any child involved.
If you are going through a divorce or any other family law proceeding, you should expect that evidence of any kind that is relevant to any issue involved in your case can and will be admitted by the court. This can include social media posts and comments and other forms of electronic communications, such as emails and text messages.
In fact, family law attorneys are paying more attention to theses and other forms of electronic communications when looking for evidence to support their cases. Studies indicate that 81% of attorneys today turn to social media for evidence to present in court, and 66% of all divorce cases involve social media as one of the primary sources of evidence.
Social Media is Increasingly Being Used as Evidence
Social media and other forms of electronic communication are great ways to stay in touch with your family and friends. But, you need to be careful about how you use these platforms when you are going through a divorce, child custody case, or other family law proceeding.
Social media posts, emails, and text messages are increasingly being used as evidence in family law cases. This is in large part because electronically stored information can easily be discovered, saved, and shared as evidence.
Communicating via social media has become such a habit that many people say things on social media that they would never say in person. These heat-of-the-moment posts and comments can provide a tremendous amount of evidence in a divorce.
How Social Media Can Hurt Your Divorce
During family law litigation, the embattled litigants will often submit to the court evidence of communications between themselves and the other party (or between the other party and third parties) that paint a negative picture of that party’s character, the type of behavior that they exhibit, and/or the quality of parenting he or she engages in.
These communications are often submitted in the form of pictures and comments that were posted on social media or sent by SMS or email. Imagine all of the different ways that an image, video, or comment can be misinterpreted and used against you.
- A picture of you with a beer in hand at a barbecue, while your child is seated on your lap, may not be seen as mom or dad relaxing with Junior at the family barbecue, but as proof that you are a child-endangering drunk.
- A video of yourself and a friend in a dance club at 4 am may not be viewed as you simply having a good time, but as you being self-absorbed and reckless.
- An SMS sent from you to your spouse asking, “Where are you?” may not be interpreted as a question of where to meet to exchange the children, but as stalking.
Keep in mind that during highly contested family law cases, some litigants take an all-is-fair-in-love-and-war approach and will twist the most innocent social media post, message or comment and use it against you.
What Should You Do?
When you are going through a divorce, it is a good idea to step away from social media, or to at least keep your posting to a minimum. You must understand that everything you post on your social media pages, both before and during your divorce, can be used by your spouse as evidence that shows you in a bad light as it relates to your case.
Before posting anything to social media, ask yourself certain questions:
- Are you sure you want this comment to be seen by a judge?
- Would you be OK with this photo being shown to a courtroom full of people?
- Could this photo or comment be taken the wrong way?
- Would my mother approve of this comment or photo?
- Would I want my children to ever see this photo?
- Could this photo or comment be used to hinder my case?
Also keep in mind that if you deactivate your social media account, it can look like you are trying to hide something. What’s more, your spouse’s lawyer can still ask that you download the history of all your social posts.
In some cases, everything you ever posted, messaged, or did on that social media platform, including anything sent to you or posted on your page by others, can be downloaded and used as evidence against you in your divorce.
Therefore, during your divorce, it’s a good idea to limit or refrain from posting and at least “unfriend“ your spouse (and his or her friends and family) and change your privacy settings, so that your social media page is not open to the public. You should also make sure that other people can’t post on a profile or leave any comments.
Most importantly, never post anything about your spouse or your contested divorce. This goes the same for anything you send by text message, email, or any other form of electronic communication.
Consult with an Experienced Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer
If you are going through a divorce in Massachusetts and have not yet talked to your lawyer about the use of social media during your divorce, then you should do so at your earliest convenience. It is a divorce lawyer’s responsibility to educate and protect you and to advise you against doing anything that will hurt your case.
To that end, every good divorce lawyer will warn you of the dangers of posting on social media during your divorce and encourage you to refrain from venting your frustration via any post, comment, or message to a friend or family member that can later be shared and used against you in court.
If you are contemplating or going through a divorce in the Greater Boston, Ma. Area, contact The Law Office of Richard Mucci at 781-729-3999 or contact us online to consult with an experienced Massachusetts divorce attorney.