Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumbler, Youtube, etc.: These are just a handful of Social Media platforms from which communications can be, and often are, used in Court as evidence. In our increasingly digital age, it is quite common for Social Media communications to be used in Family Law cases, especially those that involve Protection Orders or Parenting issues.
Individuals who use Social Media freely post pictures, videos, comments, or status updates, often without considering the risks and dangers of current or future litigation. Even when a post is deleted from an account, it may be accessible somewhere else. Caution should be taken with every Social Media post or communication, even if it is believed to be private. Being aware of the audience is important because even a “blocked” person can access a post through a third party. Or a person could be unknowingly "tagged" in an embarrassing photo which is used against them at a later time. Even something such as a dating profile from Match.com, Tinder, eHarmony, etc., can be used as evidence in Court.
The point needs to be stressed: A person does not need to be online "friends" with another person for a damaging Social Media post to end up in the Court record.
Generally, Social Media evidence is often admitted in Court unless it has been acquired by fraud or some other impermissible means, such as someone hacking into an account. As a result, being mindful of what to put online and what not to post, is very important for individuals engaged in Family Law litigation.
A general rule of thumb is to act as if every post may become public and presented to the Court. Only use language and information that is presentable to a judge. Avoiding posting on Social Media at a time of extreme emotional upset, frustration or anger is generally prudent.
Deleting Social Media accounts is not necessary, but being attentive to what is posted is vital, especially when involved in ongoing litigation. Recently, the use of Social Media as evidence in Court has increased substantially. According to a national survey of family law attorneys:
81% have seen increased use of evidence from social networking websites.
66% of the evidence used was found on Facebook.
And it's not just postings on Social Media. That same national survey also found that 92% of attorneys had an increase in cases using evidence taken from smart phones in the past few years. So if a person is in the middle of litigation, they should be careful as to every text, email or other communication that is sent to the opposing party.
Social Media posts, photos or other messages can be used for a variety of reasons in Court, such as to contradict statements made in Court or pre-trial disclosures. For example:
If a party claims not to have a substance abuse problem, but they have numerous postings of partying, bar hopping or worse.
Example: “Enjoying Happy Hour cause it’s Wednesday!”
Avoid statements or photos that may be intended for other reasons but also might demonstrate inappropriate parenting.
Example: "Family Vacation to the Beach", yet the driver is distracted and seatbelt is around the child's neck.
A claim of financial need can be easily undermined with photos of frivolous spending Example: "Love my New Boat!"
In Family Law cases, the above examples are merely a few of the countless ways that Social Media posts can be used to damage a party's legal position.
Family Law litigation can be emotionally difficult and complex. Decisions made about each step of the litigation can affect you for many years. We have years of experience helping our clients through the difficulty of family law litigation and can help you through the process. Contact us today at (253) 838 – 3377 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org, to talk about your situation.
Disclaimer: All materials provided on this website have been prepared by Bains Law Firm for general information purposes only and no representation is made as to their completeness or accuracy. Information on this website is not intended as legal advice, and may not be relied upon as such. Only an attorney who can review the unique facts of each case and apply them to the statutes, case law and court rules can provide legal advice. Nothing in this website shall be construed to create an attorney-client relations