Social Media and Your Family Law Case
Social media is a useful tool with widespread use. However, social media use means that privacy has changed as well. We often do not fully consider the implications of what we post online and may expose too much information to the outside world.
Social media use can create tension in a marriage and may additionally affect family law issues such as divorce, custody proceedings and spousal or child support issues.
Social Media Evidence
Courts are increasingly allowing social media posts to be used as evidence in family law cases. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine and Snapchat posts and photos can reveal cheating, substance abuse and other issues that can affect legal outcomes. Foursquare and Yelp can show a user's whereabouts with location check-ins. LinkedIn may disclose information about one's employment, including income and bonuses.
Child and Spousal Support and Property Distribution
Information about income or property gleaned from social media accounts can be used in family law matters such as support orders and property distribution. Therefore, if you post pictures of your new car or vacation, these images may negate claim that you are unable to pay a certain amount of alimony or child support.
Social media posts may also reveal dissipation of assets, which is the voluntary and unnecessary wasting of assets — revelations that the Court can then take into account when deciding a support order. Posts may also reveal that you have been vacationing rather than working — information that can serve as evidence of voluntary underemployment. Photos and posts may also constitute as evidence that you possess assets that you have tried to hide.
Child Custody Disputes
Illinois uses the best interests of the child standard for custody and parenting time decisions. Personal pictures of drinking or using drugs, for example, can be used as evidence that substance abuse issues make you an unfit parent. Photos may also expose unfit living conditions for a child or may reveal other behavior inappropriate for a child’s environment. Additionally, rants about your ex-spouse can be used as evidence that you are not willing to work with him or her, which is a factor considered in custody and timesharing matters.
Further, social media is not very private. Erasing posts and pictures from the Internet can be difficult, if not impossible. Hence, any past posts may be accessible by an opposing party. Finally, divorcing couples may be able to use social media as a means to keep tabs on each other.
What to Do
If you think that your social media accounts may become a liability in a family law proceeding, then modifying your privacy settings and ensuring that your friend lists include only people you trust is essential. Always be careful of what you post, and do not post pictures or comments that could be interpreted negatively.
If your previous social media account was shared jointly with your spouse, you should consider making a new, solo account. You may even want to quit social media for a time.
If you discover social media evidence of your spouse or co-parent that you think is relevant, immediately screenshot it or print it out. Authentication, however, is important. For evidence to be acceptable in Court, you must be able to prove that the document is valid, so you may want to use programs such as Snagit or Camtasia that include metadata to make authentication easier.
If you do not have access to your spouse’s social media accounts but feel these accounts may be relevant to your case, then your attorney may be able to gain access through discovery methods with the Court.
Consult with a Knowledgeable Illinois Family Law Lawyer Today
Involved in a family law dispute and have questions about how your social media use may affect your case? Please contact skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson to schedule an initial consultation.