Over the past five to ten years, we, as a society have modified the ways in which we communicate. People are no longer writing letters or having to pick up the phone and call someone in order to stay connected. Rather, people can now post significant life events with a large group of individuals in less than five seconds. Social media and online accounts allow us to stay connected with our loved ones, or even not so loved ones, and see on an almost hourly basis what someone is doing, who they are with, what they are liking, and how they are feeling. As such, social media postings and accounts have become a big issue in legal proceeding, especially those involving family law issues. We put all types of information on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds including personal and lifestyle posts.
Naturally, the information presented through these social media accounts may present as relevant to many of the issues that couples are confronting within a divorce or allocation of parental responsibility matter. The information posted can shed light on financial habits or problems of parties as well as parenting concerns or mental health issues.
When a legal proceeding begins, the parties are supposed to maintain the status quo to the extent that is possible. This means that both parties are restrained from making any major life decisions, financial decisions and child related decisions without agreement. It also means that both parties must preserve information for discovery which may be used as part of the court proceeding. While you may think that preserving information for discovery means you cannot throw away or destroy financial documents or hide marital assets, it is actually much more comprehensive.
The information that you must also preserve includes your social media posts. A well informed attorney will advise you against deleting or altering your social media posts. While it may not seem like traditional “evidence” your social media profiles and posts are discoverable and may be important in determining some of the issues in your family law case. The whole point of a legal proceeding is to uncover the relevant information on both sides that allows for the parties to reach a meaningful agreement or for the judge to make a meaningful decision. This can only truly occur when all information is on the table.
Social media posts are actually very relevant to legal proceedings. For example, if one of the issues is the income level of a party and that party claims to not be able to meet monthly expenses but then posts about an expensive vacation or a brand new car or house, that may be evidence of a different financial status.
If you are in the middle of a family law proceeding or considering whether to begin one, social media is definitely a topic to discuss with your attorney. Seek legal advice as to what to avoid before you take any steps that may negatively impact your case.