Move over, Facebook: Snapchat now being blamed for divorce filings

Instant social media and sharing apps like SnapChat may promise users privacy, but a rise in divorce cases related to them might prove otherwise.

As the Facebook phenomena began years ago, legal pundits and commentators alike wondered what impact the onslaught of social media would have on the courtroom. We now know that social networking sites can provide a wealth of information for both civil and criminal matters, with divorce attorneys in particular finding the easy access to personal data, private thoughts, photos, acquaintance lists and more that such sites provide to be of vital importance.

The so-called "Facebook effect" has even been studied by sociologists, psychologists and other social science researchers to determine the exact role that excess social media use may have in divorce, both before and after a case is filed. While the fact remains that Facebook, Tinder, Instagram, Twitter and other social media sites are still a very useful source of fact-gathering for legal matters, a new platform is gaining attention as being the potential cause of many a marriage ending: instant sharing apps like Snapchat.

What is Snapchat?

As the name implies, Snapchat allows users to instantly "snap" photos, share them, and then "chat" with recipients of those pictures via instant message. Theoretically, photos and videos sent via Snapchat are designed to disappear shortly after the recipient views them, and the sender has the ability to set a designated amount of time for such messages to "survive." Because of the added confidence that comes with knowing that these pictures, videos, messages and comments are all here on a limited-time basis, as well as the privacy afforded by being able to dictate the only audience who should be able to access the information, some users gain a false sense of bravado. This may lead them to share much more graphic or suggestive content than they would otherwise, particularly when compared what they feel comfortable posting on a relatively "public" format like Facebook or Twitter.

That same sense of security or invincibility is what some experts are saying is damaging to long-term relationships and marriages. Feeling like they won't get caught can lead some people to make poor choices that can be hazardous to their relationships. When someone finds out - usually through an impromptu search of a cellphone, tablet or laptop, or even by being contacted by the recipient of flirtatious or graphic information - that their partner has been sending suggestive comments, nude photos or otherwise inappropriate content to another person, such apps can become the impetus for a divorce or separation action.

This is why such apps are playing an increasing role in the divorce court landscape. Though Snapchat and others are touted as having "disappearing" content, many users don't realize that this type of content could actually be saved by quickly taking screenshots when it is received or by downloading it to file-sharing sites; this would give divorce attorneys much-needed access to information that could prove highly persuasive in court. There are also electronic recovery services and companies available that claim to have been able to retrieve data sent through Snapchat and other "disappearing" apps and sites by use of forensic data retrieval techniques on cellphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

What does this mean for you?

Regardless of the context in which it is involved, Snapchat, instant sharing, social media and other sites or apps could very well play a part in your divorce, child custody dispute, alimony contest or other family law matter. If you have questions about the possible use of electronic evidence in your marital dissolution proceedings, speak with an experienced family law attorney like those at the San Antonio office of John R. Disrud.

Keywords: divorce, child custody, family law, social media in divorce