Facebook and Divorce: When is Your Social Network Too Social?

Title:
Facebook and Divorce: When is Your Social Network Too Social?
Publication:
Town Topics of Princeton, November 3, 2011
Practice:

The heightened use of technology in our everyday lives, including social networking sites, may have an effect on your divorce. According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81 percent of matrimonial attorneys have used information from social networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube, as evidence in their client’s cases over the past five years. If you are divorcing or divorced, you should be cognizant of the fact that your Facebook page, or the Facebook page of your spouse, may be relevant to your case. The following are some things you should consider when it comes to your social networking site in the context of your divorce:

What you post may be used against you.
Blogs, status updates, and pictures can be key pieces of evidence in a divorce in today’s technological age.

When alimony or child support is in dispute, pictures or posts can be used as evidence on issues including ability to pay and lifestyle.  For example, a spouse’s claims of a purported inability to pay support lose credibility when that spouse’s Facebook page is filled with vacation photographs or features that spouse aside a new sports car.  Similarly, in a scenario where a spouse asserts a need for increased support, a Facebook page revealing posts of discretionary purchases, travel, and entertainment may undermine his or her case.

When custody is disputed, an overly revealing Facebook page may be damaging. Photographs and postings about excessive alcohol use or other deleterious conduct may empower one spouse to make arguments that the other spouse is an unfit parent.

Excessive postings—about any topic—may also be used in various ways.  By way of example, a spouse could argue that the other spouse can increase his or her earning capacity by spending less time on Facebook and more time working.  A parent who spends an inordinate amount of time on Facebook may also be vulnerable to allegations that he or she should be giving more time and attention to the children.

Perhaps most ominously, postings that can be construed as harassing or threatening under certain circumstances may be construed as an act of Domestic Violence.  This may be true even when the posting may not contain an overtly harassing or threatening comment and depending on the circumstances.

The information on your Facebook page may be viewed by the wrong person.
It is easy to forget that postings on a social networking site are not anonymous. If your Facebook page is “public,” your postings can be viewed by any number of people, including your estranged or ex-spouse or his or her attorney. If you have a Facebook or other social networking account, you should be cognizant of your privacy settings, and you should make sure you set them to the greatest privacy setting possible.  

Of course, even if your Facebook page is not “public,” a person you are linked to as a “friend” can access your private information, and potentially use it. Be aware of this fact before you post comments or pictures that may be relevant to your case. In addition, be aware of the fact that, if you have children, they likely are able to see your Facebook page, and what you post may be upsetting to them.

Inappropriate conduct may hurt your case.
When getting divorced, a person should strive to present himself as positively as possible, to both his ex-spouse and to the court. Pictures or comments of an inappropriate nature tend to tarnish this image and may draw negative attention to you, even if the pictures or comments do not directly relate to a main issue in your divorce.

In today’s technological age, social networking sites are an increasingly common method of keeping in touch with friends and family. However, when going through a divorce, you need to apply heightened discretion and caution. If you have a question about how social networking sites may affect your divorce, please contact Riker Danzig’s Family Law Group.