Facebook & Social Media & Parenting and Property Division
Social media is a phenomenon. In fact, it is reported that 7 in 10 adults now use social media. Generally, any information posted on a social media account such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can be introduced in court. Even if these postings are “hidden” from a spouse or family member, if they are available to others on a public forum, they will be admissible in divorce proceedings.
As a result of the vast amount of information shared on social media (and which may have evidentiary value in a divorce), Illinois courts now routinely consider postings on social media. As I noted, in this additional article, venting on social media about a divorce is generally not a good idea. Just don’t do it.
This article expands upon my previous posting, and provides information about how social media can be used to discover hidden assets and matters that may affect parenting time determinations.
Dangerous Use of Social Media
There is an almost unlimited number of posting topics that should not be made on social media, particularly in the context of a divorce. I would suggest that such ill-advised posts generally fall into the following categories:
- Disparaging comments about the former spouse;
- Photographs or postings regarding illegal or irresponsible behavior;
- Postings with language or content inappropriate for children;
- Membership in groups or content pages inappropriate for children;
- Pictures of a spouse with a boyfriend or girlfriend prior to divorce;
- Evidence of affairs, and
- Evidence of inappropriate use of marital assets.
Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, each spouse must submit an affidavit, i.e., sworn testimony, to the court regarding property and financial issues. In effect, each spouse must disclose all assets that are owned.
You should never lie or be deliberately misleading in these sworn affidavits. Lying or being deliberately misleading will likely constitute perjury, which is a crime, and which can result in jail time. Lying or being misleading will also likely detrimentally impact your case.
Let’s consider a situation in which one spouse may not have accurately represented their financial assets. Suppose a woman believes that her husband’s assets are limited, and then sees on social media that her soon-to-be ex just bought a new luxury car, or went on an expensive vacation. Naturally, the woman will want to know where the money came from to make such purchase. If I represented the woman, I would want to introduce the social media evidence into the divorce proceedings, ask the husband under oath about where the money came from to make such purchase, and subpoena records regarding such purchase to find out where the money came from (such as a secret bank account).
The Need for Spousal Maintenance
Similarly, if temporary maintenance or temporary support of a child is being sought by the spouse making such purchase, the evidence of a new car or expensive vacation purchase will likely be detrimental in such petition. Trying to appear well-off on social media and then claiming not to be well-off in a divorce proceeding, will typically not end with a good result.
Using Others’ Social Media Accounts Against You
Further, it is not only your social media account that can be used against you. If you are in the midst of a parental dispute, your child or family member’s public information can also be introduced.
For example, if you are the parent with primary parenting responsibilities and your older children post complaints about being left alone with the younger children, being ill with no care, or having a parent who is constantly out with friends, such items can be introduced as evidence against you. Even photographs depicting your children with family members or friends who themselves have social media accounts that depict drug use or inappropriate content may be used as evidence regarding your abilities to parent.
Expect Social Media to be Used in Your Divorce
Do not be surprised if this information appears during your divorce proceeding, as investigators and attorneys will commonly turn to social media for evidence. As a result, not only should you be prepared for information gleaned from your social media account to be used during your divorce, you should expect it.
Accordingly, the best policy is to remove yourself completely from social media during the pendency of your divorce and to warn children, friends, and family about the nature of their social media content.
Texting and Other Forms of Conversation.
It is not only social media evidence that may work against you. Text messages, chat conversations, or emails between you and your former spouse can also be printed, certified, and used against you in a divorce or parental proceeding.
As a result, a divorcing spouse should avoid making any text, email, written, or other electronic communications to their spouse that could be used negatively in court. On the other hand, if the other spouse makes such communications, such as threats of harm, these communication should be preserved.
Contact Me for More Information and Your Social Media Concerns
Whether you are concerned about your own past postings, have questions about whether you can use a spouse’s postings against them, or have discovered shocking social media evidence against your spouse, before taking action please contact Attorney James Teeter. I understand the frustration and difficulty of this time, and I am here to guide you through this process.