Beware: 3 Reasons Why Your Use of Social Media Affects Family Law Cases
Written by: Megan Dell
Social media and networking has grown exponentially in the past decade, and often, social media affects family law cases in South Carolina. Most family law issues involve the parties’ character or financial resources in some way.
Social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, and Reddit make it much easier to get information. As the use of social networking sites has increased, so has the likelihood your social media use can affect a court case.
Why Your Social Media Activity is Valuable
Social media activity can be used as evidence in your family law case in many ways. The most common reasons social media affects family law cases:
1 Showing Off Your Lifestyle
If your Facebook posts include pictures or updates about vacations, purchases, or lots of entertainment expenses, you can create the impression that you have money to burn. If you are requesting alimony or trying to avoid paying alimony, such updates can be damaging to your family law case. They can also be damaging if you are trying to reduce an alimony or child support obligation.
2 Sharing Your Relationships
If you have public flirtatious communications on your social media, your spouse could attempt to show that you are inclined to be adulterous. Such communication alone is not enough to prove adultery in South Carolina, but it can be the first step toward a fault-based divorce.
3 Setting Your Priorities
If you post about social activities, especially going on dates or drinking, it could hurt your child custody case. Such activities can be construed as you failing to focus on the child’s needs, especially if you are posting about doing those things while the children are in your care.
Likewise, if you describe yourself as “single” while you are still married, or if you say you have “no children” when you do have children, you are deceiving others on your social media network. Not only are you deceiving people who can see your posts, but you are demonstrating that your marriage and/or children are not your top priorities.
4 Talking About Your Case or the Other Party
If you post content that is offensive or hurtful to the other party in your family law case, your case may become harder or more complicated to resolve. Likewise, speaking negatively about the other party or anyone involved in the litigation, even in “private” messages, can be used to show your character to the Family Court.
Everything Can Be Requested in Discovery, Even Social Media Data
There is a common belief that if you use privacy restrictions carefully, your social media use won’t be used in your court case. But that isn’t true: many court cases involve social media use in various ways.
As we’ve written before, discovery is one of the most tedious, but important, parts of a Family Court case. In discovery, you can be asked to list every social media platform where you have had a profile, and to provide a copy of each profile page.
One of the most powerful tools for investigating social media is to request a copy of a party’s Facebook data in discovery. The Facebook data file provides access to your friends list, the groups you have been a member of, and copies of all of your private messages. Unless the request for the data is unreasonably broad or subject to some other appropriate objection, the entire set of files must be produced.
Anything Else Can Be Subpoenaed!
The truth is social media is used in court cases every day, and nothing you post online is private or confidential. A family lawyer who is committed to finding what you have posted can issue subpoenas to the social networking sites themselves.
Avoiding Social Media Affecting Your Court Case
The best way to prevent your family law case becoming a tale of poor social media use is to be smart about your participation from the beginning. A few tips:
- Understand that nothing you post can be deleted. Once it is on the internet, it stays on the internet forever, even if it is no longer posted on your profile.
- Do not talk about your case on social media, and do not allow others to talk about your case.
- Be careful friending or following people you have in common with your spouse. Even if your spouse does not have access to your profile, he or she may be able to get someone who has access to help observe your social media use.
- Be suspicious of sudden friend requests from people you hardly know. Such people could be imposters attempting to gain access to your profile.
- Be careful about the Facebook Groups you join and the Facebook Pages you like.
- Above all, do not say or do anything online you do not want a Family Court judge to see!
Using Social Media Evidence to Help Your Family Law Case
Just as social media can be used as evidence against you, it can also be used to support your case. Your posting history can be used to show your positive qualities. And, sometimes, learning what the other party has posted on social media can affect your family law case in a positive way.
Finding A Family Law Attorney Who Understands Social Media
It’s important to hire an attorney who is familiar with social media platforms and how the related material can be obtained. To find out how your social media content could be used in your family law case, schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.