Social Media’s Role In Your Divorce
Digital technology and social media are ever-present in Americans’ lives. Accordingly, when couples divorce, social media is playing a role in the divorce process. Information shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter may have been the catalyst behind the divorce, or they may serve as an evidentiary goldmine during a contested proceeding. Knowing how social media sites and digital technology can affect a divorce is important for anyone in this information age.
Did Facebook cause your breakup? According to a recent poll in England, one-third of all divorce cases cited Facebook and other social media sites as one of the primary causes of their divorce. The people polled cited Facebook flirting and inappropriate messaging as main contributors to their breakup.
The Divorce Proceeding
Social media sites are also becoming a key component of divorce and custody cases. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) recently revealed that in the last five years, Facebook and social media posts have been a primary source of divorce trial evidence. The AAML estimates that 80 percent of divorce cases now include evidence gleaned from social media and networking sites.
Parties to custody and divorce disputes greatly underestimate the reach of their Facebook status updates and uploaded pictures. Spouses — and their attorneys — are watching each other online and looking for things to use against the other in a divorce proceeding. Things that are often used as evidence are status updates or pictures that imply infidelities, partying or bad parenting decisions. Do not think a person is safe just because they have “defriended” their spouse; a mutual friend could be monitoring the ex’s posts looking for evidence.
The court might also order you to provide access to your social media accounts to the other side as part of the disclosure process. For example, a Connecticut judge recently ordered a divorcing couple to share their Facebook and other online account passwords. While some may find such a ruling an invasion of privacy, others like the Connecticut judge mentioned, find the evidence revealed by social media sites outweighs the privacy right and is integral to deciding custody and divorce decisions.
Dividing Digital Assets
Families with a digital reputation — such as the website of a family-owned business — have additional issues when it comes to property division. They must divide traditional marital assets like homes and bank accounts and also determine such intangible issues like:
- The virtual friends on a joint social networking site
- The shared library of music, movie and television downloads
- Family photographs uploaded to a photography sharing site like Shutterfly, Flickr or Winkflash
- Pets, food and other items purchased for online games like Farmville
These are novel issues in divorce cases these days and are difficult to determine. Generally, however, if these items are purchased during the marriage, they constitute community or marital property that is subject to division.
Protecting Your Privacy And Your Assets
The best thing you can do to protect yourself in the divorce process is to suspend or deactivate your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts. If you can’t bring yourself to deactivate them, make sure your privacy settings are set to limit as much access as possible and that you police the content of both your posts and what others post about you.
If you are contemplating divorce, or are currently involved in one, contact an experienced divorce attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.