The Role of Social Media in Your Divorce
By Billie Tarascio
Social Media, including Facebook, Twitter, Four Square and even You Tube have changed the way we communicate, shop, socialize, date and divorce. In the most recent statistic, we’ve learned that more than a third of Divorce Petitions contain the word Facebook, and 80% of attorneys in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers say they are using evidence from Facebook in their divorce litigation cases.
K. Jason Krafsky, who authored the book “Facebook and Your Marriage,” states that affairs on Facebook are happening at lightening speed, and can take place in the matter of a few clicks. Not only is social media contributing to the number of divorces, it’s also taking center stage as evidence during divorce trials. Here are a few real live examples of how social media has been used against those who post:
A spouse claimed she was permanently disabled from an accident during the marriage and needed permanent alimony/spousal support due to the disability. Photo’s and posts on social media showed the woman was salsa dancing on the weekends, checking in at yoga studios and river rafting during the summer. The Judge admitted the posts and photos and denied the woman’s claim for permanent alimony.
Fit to be a parent
Two parents were fighting for who should have sole custody. Each was allowed to present character evidence for who would be the better custodial parent. Photos of one spouse drinking, smoking and partying during “their” parenting time was admitted to show he was unfit to be the custodial parent. This evidence impacted the amount of parenting time and child support owed to the non-partying parent.
A spouse was absolutely convinced her husband was hiding assets and failing to disclose his true income in court filings. While he claimed to be unemployed and living with his parents, social media evidence showed a lavish cruise, new truck and a claim on a dating site of income above $100,000 per year.
In a highly publicized case of Stephen and Courtney Gallon, the husband thought he saw potentially incriminating evidence in Courtney’s social media accounts. The judge ordered that each party give their social media passwords and online dating site passwords to the opposing counsel for use within the trial.
So what’s a person to do? Here are three tips that can help keep social media evidence out of your divorce:
During the pendency of a divorce, the best thing you can do is lay low and refrain from posting on social media. If you must post and participate in social media, be aware that everything you say, post or every time you check in, may be used against you. Sometimes even the most innocuous statement can come back to haunt you, or the statements of friends, or tags of other people’s photos can leave you defending yourself to a judge. When in doubt, don’t post.
Choose Your “Friends” Wisely.
Block your soon-to-be ex-spouse as a friend or follower. Consider blocking certain family members or friends that may report information to your spouse or even temporarily deleting your account. This may seem extreme, but with 80% of attorneys using evidence from social media against the opposing party, it may be time to opt out.
Change your passwords on your accounts. Many spouses keep the usernames and passwords for various accounts in a mutually accessible place. Change passwords to any accounts that you now wish to keep private.