The Facebook divorce: How is social media used in litigation?
During a divorce or custody case, both parties are entitled to request information from the other party in order to: 1) investigate facts relating to the issues in the case and 2) prepare for trial.
Even if the other party does not have access to your social media profiles, they may legally request information relating to your social media posts during the course of your case. Posts and pictures from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and online dating sites are regularly used in court proceedings.
What kind of evidence can be used from social media?
In general, social media evidence is often used to show:
- A person’s state of mind
- Documented communications
- Evidence of time and place
- Proof of spending or income
- Evidence of actions
- Evidence of who a person spends time with
Social media posts can be used to show your activities on a certain date. Facebook check-ins and posts to Foursquare can be used to track where you have been, what time and date you were at a certain location, and who you are spending time with. This type of information can potentially be used in a custody battle.
Posts about vacations, purchases, or leisure activities may be used in cases involving disputes over child support or alimony. Your LinkedIn profile may be used in cases involving child support or alimony in order to show how you are marketing yourself to potential employers.
Proving violations of restraining orders
Text messages and social media posts can be used as evidence in cases where there is a restraining order in place. Social media check-ins to certain locations or contact with the other party through social media, text messaging or e-mail might be used as evidence of violating a restraining order.
Using social media to serve legal documents
In some states, attorneys have been able to use Facebook to serve legal documents on a party to the case. A judge in New York recently allowed a man to serve his ex-wife with legal documents on Facebook after the man provided the court with evidence that he had not been able to serve his ex-wife with the papers through more traditional methods.
How can I prevent my social media accounts being used as evidence?
If you are involved in a contested divorce or custody case, it is a good idea to consider deactivating your Facebook account and other social media sites for a period of time. You may not want the other party using information about you on social media sites to show your activities or who you are spending time with during the course of the case. Even if you block certain individuals from your social media accounts, there may be a way for the opposing party to obtain information from social media sites that you would not want that party to see.