With the development of social media and reconnection of old friends, these platforms created a space where people feel comfortable sharing their personal emotions, activities, pictures, and information. Although such revelations encourage relationships between friends, they also may encourage litigation disputes during a divorce action. When consulting with your divorce attorney, discuss your social media presence, and the effect some material available on these platforms may have on your divorce.
The extent that your social media accounts will play a role in your divorce proceedings depends solely on the content you post and the issues under contest. Even if your account is set to private, your activity and social media page is subject to proper discovery and is admissible in court proceedings under Florida law. Although your attorney may claim privacy or hearsay in an attempt to deem these statements and activities inadmissible, your posts will generally fall under the hearsay exception, “admission by party opponent.” These include statements that were made by a party and are now being offered against them in court. Because you physically posted onto the page, these statements, or pictures can be eligible as “party statements,” and therefore admissible in court. Even if deemed inadmissible, the court has routinely held that social media activity is discoverable.
Your activity prior to your divorce, during your divorce, or even after your divorce, if engaged in a modification proceeding, may be admissible in your case depending upon the issues at hand. Generally, social media is introduced when finances, alimony, adultery, or child custody is being contested. For instance, if adultery is a claim in the case in relation to dissipation of marital funds, your Facebook activity showing where you were “checking in” and who you were with, as well as pictures posted or messages, will be evidence used against you to prove the marital misconduct.
Further, if a claim is made that a party is misrepresenting their financial status or dissipating marital funds, social media can be of great aid. For instance, if the spouse has posted pictures of a lavish vacation, purchase of a new car, sale of old property, receipt, or expenditure of an expensive gift and is claiming a less than income or is failing to document these items on their financial affidavit, action may be taken by the court. This evidence can represent a dissipation of marital funds, as well as perjury to the court. This spouse would be susceptible to an unequal distribution and possible contempt action. Therefore, it is important not to post or discuss your finances online and hold off on making large sales or purchases during this time.
Social media is also commonly used in cases where a child is involved. When determining child custody, the court considers each parent’s ability to encourage a parent child relationship, keep the child away from the effects of the litigation, and maintain a healthy and safe home. Therefore, evidence of a parent’s emotional rant regarding their co-parent can call into question their mental stability and ability to encourage a healthy relationship. Further, if a parent is seen in photos consuming illegal substances or large amounts of alcohol in the child’s presence, this may present a negative home environment for the child.
Although your social media accounts seem private, all your information and posts can be accessible and can be devastating to your case. Be sure to take proper steps to minimize your activity on social media during this time and discuss any problematic posts or information that may come up in your case with your lawyer.
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