While social networking sites allow users to connect with old and new friends, they also create circumstances that may lead to a divorce or child custody battle. Moreover, social networking sites allow divorce lawyers to discover information they might not otherwise find using traditional methods of "discovery" (the process used to gather supporting facts and information in a case).
While there are no specific laws concerning the use of Facebook in divorce proceedings, the existing rules of evidence support the use of alternate forms of media to gather evidence, and this may include information found on social networking sites (via email, cell phone, or computer data retrieval, for example.)
This article explores the use of social media platforms like Facebook, how they can impact a couple's decision to divorce, and how they can be used for discovery in the divorce process.
What May Be Found on Facebook and Other Platforms
There are several bits of divorce-related evidence that can be found on Facebook. Generally, a person's overall history and whereabouts are just a mouse click away from public eyes -- despite Facebook's privacy settings (which are not always reliable.)
Furthermore, people often mistakenly believe that their actions online don't carry the same consequences as real-life events. For example, they may believe that online flirting is not the same as flirting in a bar. The reality, however, proves that what a person says or does online can have serious repercussions in a divorce or child custody case.
Below are examples of damning evidence that may be found on social networking sites, which may potentially be used against you in a "Facebook divorce" situation.
Similarly, information about a side business on the professional networking site Linkedin could be used in discovery when determining income if previously undisclosed to your spouse. Meanwhile, information shared on dating sites could be used as evidence of infidelity. And regardless of the nature of a given social networking site, they all can be used to triangulate your whereabouts or habits to varying degrees.
Facebook and Divorce: Legal Issues
Legal issues concerning the use of Facebook data in divorce proceedings varies. For instance, adultery is still grounds for divorce in some states. New York law defines adultery as "the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with a person other than the offender's spouse." In most adultery cases, direct proof is not required - based on the mere nature of secretive relationships. Adultery in a Facebook divorce situation, however, might be inferred through photos and information posted on Facebook.
Note that while evidence-worthy photos and information exchanged on Facebook on their own may not be grounds for divorce, but information combined with other forms of proof may create an undesirable outcome.
Tips for Facebook Users Facing a Divorce
Before you upload that picture or comment, it's important to keep a few things in mind. Here's a list of tips to help you avoid a Facebook divorce:
Facebook, Divorce, and Your Options: Consider Getting Legal Help
Even the most amicable divorce can be a profoundly stressful experience -- especially in this age of social media and the unenviable "Facebook divorce." A knowledgeable divorce attorney can safely guide you through the process to ensure your financial security and peace of mind.