A Look at How Social Media Affects Your Divorce

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Posted in On March 22, 2015

Indianapolis Divorce Attorney Blog: The Impact of Social Media on Custody and Support

As social media has become more prevalent in the recent years, it is now commonplace for attorneys to access social media and networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, Twitter, and personal blogs, as a manner for obtaining evidence for divorce, child custody, and support cases.  Even though these types of sites are entertaining and a great tool for staying connected with friends and family and staying informed on many political and cultural topics, such sites can negatively affect your family law case if you use them incorrectly.  It is important to keep in mind that when you post information on a social site, your ex-spouse or his/her attorney may be printing out those posts for use in a trial against you as we speak.
There are numerous examples of social media posts that may have an impact on your case.  If you have a pending child support matter, posting photographs of expensive vacations, cars, boats, or other luxurious items may contradict any argument of an inability to pay support or a lack of disposable income.  If you are in a custody case, posting or tweeting about a late night out at the bar when you were supposed to have been exercising parenting time with your children could tell a judge that you put a higher priority on going out with your friends than spending time with your children.
Posting anything that may reference or insinuate your use of alcohol, marijuana, or other substances may have a bearing on a custody as well.  If you are using a dating website, make sure to refrain from posting provocative photographs, stating that you are looking for “hook ups”, or creating a profile that says you are ‘single with no children.’  Making threats to others, especially your ex-spouse, on such sites can put you in a bad light and can even reinforce a position that you have anger management issues.  Further, never post anything about a pending family law case, a judge’s decision in your case, or other people associated with your case, including the other party, your family members, your children, or other experts or professionals who may be used as a witness.  Lastly, even posts made by other people close to you can impact your case.  For example, if your girlfriend or boyfriend uses Facebook to brag about expensive gifts that you bought her/him, such posts could provide evidence that you are dissipating an asset during a pending divorce or it could undermine an action to reduce child support.
Even attempts to ‘clean up’ your social media profiles can be a fruitless attempt to keep your posts out of evidence.  On such sites, deleting any previous negative posts and photographs may still be discoverable as the information is never completely deleted from the media site’s server.  For example, on Facebook, a person can go to ‘Settings’ on his/her profile and can download a copy of his/her archive, which includes all photographs and posts ever made on your profile, even the ones you thought you deleted.  During the discovery process in a divorce or custody case, (the legal process of gathering evidence), an attorney can compel you to provide him/her with a download of your Facebook archive and so all deleted photographs and posts will then be produced to the opposing attorney and can be used against you.
Additionally, de-activating your Facebook account may not protect you.  In a recent case in North Dakota, a party testified that she de-activated her Facebook account since she only used it for communicating with her nieces, nephews, and other relatives.  Even with her testimony, the court ordered her and her attorney to make all reasonable efforts to re-activate her account and produce her profile to the other party.  Similarly, in a Texas case, the judge held that a defendant’s mere act of making his Facebook account private after an incident that caused the underlying legal action supported an inference that the defendant acted with intent to injure the plaintiff.
As a result, you should carefully consider everything you post or photographs you are ‘tagged in’ and the potential effect they can have on your case.  Whether you are thinking about a divorce, child custody, or support case, the attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC can help you.  Give us a call at (317) 870-0019, or email us at info@banksbrower.com.  We are available to take your call 24/7/365.