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Dangers of Social Media & Divorce

As more and more people use social media programs like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the presence of those programs can be felt in nearly every type of family law case, including divorces, custody matters, post-judgment cases and domestic violence matters.

One can argue that social media is responsible for a great number of divorces each year. On Facebook for instance, many people come into contact with significant others from the past or are making new relationships. It is easy for old relationships to be reignited or for new ones to be commenced. Often, the new or old relationship unfolds online, with one post, picture or link at a time. There is an electronic paper trail and if a spouse finds out about the relationship, it could lead to serious marital problems. It is completely permissible for a spouse to use information acquired through Facebook or Instagram to prove that his/her spouse committed adultery.

In custody matters, parents have frequently used social media to openly complain and vent about the other parent and the things that the other parent does with the children or the positions taken during the litigation. Parties in a custody litigation should be aware that the courts do not take kindly to such a public airing of grievances. For the sake of the children, the courts try to handle custody matters more discreetly and expediently than divorce matters and other types of matters in the family courts. Furthermore, if a parent posts negative comments about another parent, it is very possible that a child of the relationship will see the post. Such negative commentary may very well affect the relationship that the child has with the parent who is being disparaged. It may also backfire on the parent who is making the negative commentary as it may compel the child to side with the parent who is under attack. If the court finds out that such negative comments are being made by a parent, it will certainly hold such actions against that parent when the court makes a custody determination.

Social media can pose many difficulties in post-marital or post-judgment cases, which are those cases wherein a divorce has been entered already. In order to get a modification of your support obligations (whether it be an increase or decrease), you or your ex-spouse will have to show the court that you have experienced a significant change of circumstances. Your ex-spouse can use social media to track several facets of your life, including whether you are in a new relationship, whether you have remarried, where you live, if you buy a new home, if you get a new job, and where you are going on vacations, etc. In the past, an ex-spouse was normally forced to file a post-judgment motion based on speculation, which normally came in the form of hearsay. Now, however, an ex-spouse can file a post-judgment motion that is replete with documentation and information that is directly from the other spouse.

There may not be another area wherein social media has such a large impact as in domestic violence matters. In many cases, the alleged victim of domestic violence can point to instances on Facebook or Twitter wherein the alleged aggressor has harassed or threatened the alleged victim. Once such public statements have been made and they are recorded by the victim, they are admissible in court and can be used by the alleged victim to make his/her case for a restraining order. In the past, most domestic violence cases came down to a "he said/she said" struggle wherein the court would have to make a determination as to which party was more credible. However, with the harassment/threats recorded in black in white and the ability to trace those communications directly to the accused aggressor, it has become much easier for alleged victims to acquire restraining orders.

Considering the fact that the general population continues to use social media in larger numbers each year, there is no reason to believe that social media will become less prevalent in divorce cases. Before you post on social media, please think twice about how it may affect you or your family, and whether the potential communication is worth the risk.