Social Media in a Family Law Case
Most people are a member of some form of social media, if not multiple forms. Web sites, such as Instagram and Facebook, have become a facet of everyday life. It comes as no surprise that, as these forms of social media have become more prevalent in everyday life, they have also become important to a divorce or custody case.
However, how this media is used in a family law case depends on many different factors, and it is important that parties to a family law case understand how to properly utilize social media in proving their cases.
Social Media as Evidence in a Family Law Case
Social media evidence can include a number of different forms. It includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, as well as dating services sites. People freely share intimate details of their lives on social media, which includes both good and bad information. Problems arise when clients do not realize that what they put out on the Internet could come back to hurt them later in court.
For this reason, many attorneys will recommend that a client get off social media or limit what he or she posts while the case is pending.
Never assume that the privacy settings on the account are so secure that information cannot be accessed by the other party. Even if the ex-spouse is blocked or “unfriended,” he or she may still be friends with someone connected to the client, making the information accessible.
This fact then brings the question of what information is even relevant to a family law case. What is relevant can be a myriad of things, including the person’s friend list, pictures, activity log and status updates.
If the posts show poor judgment on the part of the other party, and they share minor children, that information may be important when making determinations on custody or parenting time.
Social media is not the only form of electronic evidence that is relevant to a family law case. Courts may find text messages, call records, emails, as well as browser histories relevant in a family law case.
Social Media’s Effect on Child Custody
In many family law cases, parents will try to use social media in attempts to show what the other parent is not doing or is doing that could harm the children involved.
This evidence can include pictures or posts showing that the other parent is consuming alcohol or illegal drug use, as well as other information that could put the child in danger. In some severe situations, parents have posted pictures of guns or drugs which resulted in a judge restricting the access that parent has with his or her children.
Ultimately, the judge must consider the child’s best interests when making any decisions on that child’s behalf. If evidence exists through social media or any other form of electronic communication that could show that one parent will not be making decisions for the child that are in his or her best interests, that evidence is relevant and should be considered.
If one party is spending time with individuals who are not safe or stable enough to be around a minor child, this information could also be located through social media.
For example, if one of the parties now has a new significant other who would be spending a great deal of time around the child, their accounts could be considered in the case. If the significant other excessively drinks, does illegal drugs or is violent, any information shared on social media regarding this person could be considered relevant and could be submitted as evidence when determining custody or access to the child.
Social Media as Evidence of Income
Additionally, social media evidence could be relevant when it comes to proving a party’s income.
For instance, if one of the parties is saying that he or she does not have a high income or says that his or her income has decreased, social media could prove otherwise. If that person has purchased a brand-new car or is taking expensive vacations, as well as posting pictures of this information online, evidence of these statements could be considered very relevant in the case.
When presenting this evidence to court, it is important that the proper foundation is laid for it to be considered admissible. Consult a family law attorney regarding this evidence first to make sure that it is actually helpful in the case and that it could be presented to the court. Even if the evidence is not admissible, it could be helpful to the attorney in preparing a case.
Contact a Family Lawyer Today
If you have questions about how social media can affect your case, contact family lawyers at Scott M. Brown and Associates. Call us today at (979) 318-3075. We have offices in Angleton, Webster/Clear Lake, and Pearland.