The social media “revolution” is in full swing. Some say that an increased electronic presence is part of living in an increasingly digital age, while others lament the loss of the sense of privacy that existed before much of the world was “wired.” Whether we like it or not, the simple truth is that millions of us regularly use social media and professional networking sites to share pictures of our children with far-away loved ones, catch up with old friends, meet new people and enhance career opportunities by connecting with like-minded professionals.
With social media taking a part in so many lives these days, it is no surprise that electronically derived evidence (gathered from social media or networking sites, emails or text messages) now plays a role in upwards of 75 percent of divorce proceedings in Virginia and across the country. This evidence is widely varied, and can include:
- “Status updates”
- “Friend” lists
- Instant messages / chat sessions
- “Check-ins” (where a person’s location is captured and relayed through a social media tool like Facebook, FourSquare or Yelp)
- Private messages sent through sites like Facebook, MySpace or Friendster
- Online dating profiles
- Joining groups on sites like MeetUp
Regardless of the ramifications for the person posting information online, like having that information used against you in court, and possibly being misconstrued (a snapshot of you drinking cola at a work event where others are having cocktails could put you in the position of having to defend accusations of alcoholism or that your social life is too busy to properly care for your children), the impact of social media content can send ripples throughout an entire family.
Many parents are “friends” with their children on social media sites nowadays. This can be a great way for parents to stay involved in their children’s lives, particularly if the kids are away at camp, are in college or are visiting loved ones in another area. It can also expose your children to a lot of the venom aimed solely at your soon-to-be-ex-spouse in a divorce proceeding. This could have a negative effect on the relationship you and your spouse have with the children. That, of course, could change the way your child custody or support dispute plays out.
For example, if you are constantly venting about your spouse having a new girlfriend, for example, that could drive a wedge between him and your children. The opposite is true as well; if your spouse complains about you wanting too much alimony / spousal support, it might make you appear to your children like you are being greedy, something that could deleteriously impact your relationship with them. Furthermore, being exposed to the strong emotions you and your spouse feel during a divorce could make the adjustment process even more difficult for your kids.
In essence, everything said online – both by you and about you – could potentially be discoverable and aired in a court of law. With that sobering fact in mind, it is of vital importance that you think twice before sharing any aspect of your life electronically. In fact, if you are in the middle of a divorce or a custody dispute, your attorney might well advise you to go ahead and think three times before posting anything. Better yet, an experienced family law attorney would likely advise that you not post anything at all that you wouldn’t want a judge to read in open court.