25 Jul How Social Media Can Affect Your Court Case
Social media has made our world connected and archived in a way that would have been hard to imagine just a few decades ago. Every small thought, passive-aggressive comment and proud accomplishment you have made is out there on the internet for everyone to see if you are an avid social media user.
Because social media is so essential to modern communication for many people, chat logs between your spouse and children can often provide an honest account of your interaction with them. In family law cases, social media is now one of the largest sources of evidence presented in a trial. Depending on what side of the evidence you find yourself on, this can become a blessing or a curse.
Both before initiating and during a divorce, your spouse may keep tabs on your social media to use posts and chat logs as evidence. Knowing how to navigate social media evidence is now essential to going through a divorce or custody trial successfully. Both providing and disputing evidence found on the likes of Instagram and Facebook will likely become an important part of your attorney’s duties during family law court procedures. With over 89% of people under 30 being active social media users and 65% of all adults participating on social platforms, you are likely to be affected by social media in any future family law cases you take part in.
Social media is useful during litigation for many reasons. It can be used to determine a person’s state of mind on a given day, or even provide the court with their exact location on that date. For spouses providing evidence of their partner’s adultery, constant communication between the accused spouse and their suspected lover can be presented as supporting evidence for the case.
A person’s actions can also be placed together by examining the social media profile of an active user. If someone is continually posting about partying or being intoxicated, these types of posts could be used against them by a spouse claiming they are unstable to raise a child. Any evidence on social media that points toward a person leading an unhealthy, unstable, or potentially dangerous lifestyle can be used against them legally within the family court system.
Perhaps the most significant evidence source social media provides, however, are chat logs. When in the middle of a custody battle, what you have said to your spouse or children can come into play in a big way. Negative comments about your spouse, or towards your children can result in you being looked on negatively by court officials. If your conversations demonstrate bitterness toward your family, court officials may decide that you having full custody of your children is not in their best interest.
Authenticating the social media evidence presented in court is important. Simply put, there are two primary questions that must be addressed to prove the authenticity of a post. First, it has to be proven that the evidence presented is an accurate reflection of the content that was published on the social media website and not a perversion of it. Second, it must be proven to a satisfactory degree that the evidence was created by the person it is being used against. If both of these requirements are met, your attorney should be able to make the case that the social media evidence being presented should be taken seriously by the family court system.
Social media is here to stay, so it is important to know how to handle yourself on the various platforms, as well as how you can protect your privacy as a user. First, you should always make sure your privacy settings are set in a way that disables people you do not want snooping in your life from seeing your content. Additionally, making your profile completely invisible to non-friends can help make it harder for people to gather evidence against you.
While it is possible to delete posts, the data could still be “screen-shotted” or saved out there somewhere in your extended friend group. In addition to this, you may not be aware of all the photos that exist of you floating around on Facebook or other popular platforms. Cleaning up your profile to be more presentable may appear to be a good choice, but may cause a problem referred to as “spoliation of evidence“.
You can avoid these types of problems by just taking a calm and conservative approach to how you post on social media. Realize that your electronic communications are, indeed, discoverable and should not be treated as private. Overall, it is best to avoid any social media posts about the family law case altogether.
Ultimately, it may be best to disable completely or delete your social media profile during the duration of a family law case in order to avoid making any posts that you may come to regret making later on. Also, always be completely open and honest with your attorney about any content that currently exists or has existed on your profile, so that he/she may have a better idea of the circumstances in which they are operating.