Facebook and Divorce: Divorce in the Age of Social Media

Facebook, Divorce, and Social Media
Social Media can produce evidence for a Divorce

Facebook and Divorce in General

Social media has made an impact on all our lives. It influences the way we relate to one another, the way we communicate, and the way we present ourselves to the world.  Facebook and other social media also can impact a divorce.

For many, posting comments, checking-in at places, and sharing updates via social media has become second nature. After all, it can be a convenient and inexpensive way to stay in contact with family and friends.

However, there are negative sides.  A simple relationship status change from “married” or “in a relationship” to “single” on Facebook can create significant controversy.  Or a feud begins after an offensive comment on one’s post.  Politics, for example, is an especially fertile ground for this.

The term, ‘Facebook Drama’ has become apart of our modern vocabulary.  It describes the chaotic mess of hostile information on Facebook and social media in general.

Facebook and Divorce: Social Media Perils

Social media can bleed over into divorce and family law cases. Due to their personal and social nature, family law disputes can make their way into social media.

After all, getting a divorce is a significant and potentially contentious change. Having social support can be incredibly beneficial during this time. Therefore, it may seem natural to talk about divorce and a soon-to-be-ex on Facebook.

It’s especially easy in the heat of the moment.  If a spouse is upset, public expression is just a click away. Unfortunately, social media and divorce are rarely a good combination.

Facebook, and other social media sites have taken their seat in the court room. In 2010, evidence from social media websites began entering the legal arena.  At the time, the majority came from Facebook. Today, the Court encounters evidence taken from social media sites, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, for example.

Social Media as Evidence in Divorce Cases

There are four areas that social media information can be used in family law and divorce cases:

  • A Person’s State of Mind
  • Evidence of Communication
  • Proof of Time & Place
  • Evidence of Actions

To illustrate, social media could reveal a spouse hiding assets during a divorce.  It could contradict a party’s income statements and therefore, impact spousal maintenance or child support payments.  It could demonstrate that a parent isn’t properly caring for a child.

Of particular importance, judges tend to weigh this evidence more heavily than testimony.  Testimony is biased.  People lie or misremember things. 

However, judges may perceive social media statements as more objectively accurate.  Parties may state them without thinking about a hearing.  And, they weren’t worried about what someone else might think.  

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy on social media.

In other words, a judge may order production of passwords and anything else needed to access social media accounts and what’s been written in them. In Minnesota, the information on your social media pages can be treated and is treated the same as other, more traditional forms of evidence.

Social Media Tips During a Divorce of Family Law Case

don’t post anything you don’t want the other side to see

People who work against your interests can potentially access social media.  This includes posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.  This can be the other parent, his or her attorney, private investigators, custody evaluators, or even the Court.

Assume anything posted may be public and permanent.  Also assume a Judge could review it at a later date.

don’t post anything that can be misinterpreted

Never say anything related to a family law case or an anticipated case, divorce or otherwise, on any social media outlet. In addition, ask friends and family members not to post anything as well.

We commonly see people asking family law related questions about child support, parenting time, divorce, etc.  This is understandable.   However, this can do more harm than good.  

We don’t have perfect control over who has access to that information and how it could be used or interpreted. Specific questions should be addressed directly and only with your attorney where your personal information is protected by confidentiality agreements and privacy laws.

take steps to protect your privacy

Sometimes people say that they “unfriended” their ex so they’re safe. However, mutual friends can relay information back to the Ex or post pictures on their own timeline. Someone may make a post private, only to find out later that someone took a screenshot of the post when it was public.

Even with a deleted post, there may be a retrievable cached version. It may be helpful to:

  • Change passwords
  • Unfriend people close to the other party
  • Limiting who can “tag” photos and post on your timeline
  • Censoring posts 

However, the safest bet is to either temporarily disable accounts or at the least don’t post anything.

retain a divorce attorney and ask him or her questions

Be honest about any potentially incriminating posts, blogs, texts, emails, pictures, etc.   A divorce lawyer can be proactive and take steps with you to reduce harm.

These guidelines can be and should be applied to all forms of Social Media.  This includes: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Blogging, Texting and Emailing. 

They may also apply to other family law proceedings.   This includes: Child Custody, Child Support, Spousal Maintenance, Paternity Actions, and Parenting Time disputes.

As is clear, Facebook and divorce should be separate.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For more information about Minnesota Courts and rules: MN Courts Website.