In our current social media age it’s not uncommon for people to vent their unhappiness online. Whether updating a Facebook status to call out an ex-wife for her inability to appear in court on time, or tweeting raves about a judge’s decision, people use social media platforms to tell the world about their lives. And often times that means their lives and their divorces. Before you take to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media, there are some things you need to know – namely how it could potentially affect your divorce and the judge’s decisions.
Rants Land Man in Prison
The Supreme Court recently overturned the conviction of Anthony Elonis, a Pennsylvania man whose social media rants landed him in prison.
Elonis, often using rapper Eminem’s lyrics, used Facebook to make a series of violent rants against his wife and others. He claimed the rants were not “true threats,” and that the jokes and comments were free speech, and thus protected under the First Amendment.
The court sided with Elonis, 7-2, ruling that the status updates were inadequate for conviction and that prosecutors would need to show that the writer in question actually meant the rants to be threatening.
“Federal criminal liability generally does not turn solely on the results of an act without considering the defendant’s mental state. That understanding “took deep and early root in American soil” and Congress left it intact here,” wrote presiding Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts noted that the law in question did not explain what mental state should be required for conviction.
While free speech advocates fear that criminalizing Facebook rants might lead to an overall restriction of free speech, others fear that lack of governing laws could lead to far worse situations.
Reason for Divorce
It’s no secret that social media can lead to divorce.
Countless studies have proven that the best way to keep your status as “in a relationship” or “married” you might want to log off Facebook.
A recent survey of 2,000 Brits found that one in seven people had considered divorce as a result of their spouse’s questionable activity on social media outlets such as Facebook, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter or What’sApp.
And almost a quarter of participants polled by the law firm Slater and Gordon said they had an argument at least once a week that was related to social media use. Of that group, 17 percent admitted they fought about social media every day. Fifty-eight percent of those polled said they knew their spouse or partner’s passwords even if their spouse or partner was unaware of it.
Meanwhile, divorce attorneys agree that social media increasingly plays a role in marriage breakdowns. In a 2010 survey done by American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81 percent of those surveyed said they’d seen an increase in the number of cases that cited social networking as a reason for divorce in the five years prior to the survey. According to the attorneys, Facebook was the number one source for spouses being able to find evidence of their spouse’s infidelity. Of those, 66 percent admitted they’d found evidence through combing through the site.
Social Media as Evidence in Divorce Court
Social media can be a valuable source of evidence in in family law cases involving divorce, child custody, and child support and visitation. It’s not uncommon for people to assume that their Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos and other social media activities are more private than they really are. Though people are becoming increasingly more aware of the fact that social media is not as private as they thought, people still continue to post information they otherwise would have never volunteered. This information includes: financial affairs, adultery, improper parenting, and even dangerous or illegal activities such as drug use. It’s all been seen on the internet, and it all still continues to be seen on the internet.
“Privacy” and Divorce
Many users of social media believe their pages are “private” and thus should not be able to be used in a family law battle. In previous cases, people have claimed that their Facebook profiles should be excluded from judgement or as evidence because they are only shared among a small group of Facebook “friends.” Yet courts continue to reject this argument, determining that there is little to no reasonable expectation of privacy with regards to actions taken on a social media platform. Even creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has stated “privacy is no longer a social norm.”
It’s important to remember that while you can control your privacy settings, the information can still be easily shared. Sometimes parties going through domestic law cases “un-friend” the opposing party. Even then, information can still be shared through mutual friends and family members who are still able to see whatever you post. The information can also still be requested by an attorney. In previous cases such as Offenback v. Bowman, Barnes v. CUS Nashville, LLC, and Largent v. Reed judges have privately reviewed information to determine if information should be disclosed in a case.
You or your ex-spouse might try to hide evidence by deleting it. But this can be dangerous too. Intentionally deleting information can be legally seen as the destruction of evidence. This can cause even more legal trouble in court. In the case of Lester v. Allied Concrete Co, the court fined both the defendant and his attorney for removing harmful posts and pictures on a Facebook page.
But how did they find out?
In our current social media age, it’s not uncommon for lawyers to take to social media to gather evidence when they are first hired for the case. Often times this means an attorney has social media information long before a person has time to delete or conceal the information. When this evidence “goes missing” and that fact becomes evident in a court of law, the deletion can have larger consequences than the original evidence.
How to Deal with an Ex
If your ex is continually bashing you online, try to focus on other things. Maybe it now the chance to prove you’re the bigger person by ignoring them.
Here’s some advice from those who have been through it before:
It’s important to remember that just like in a criminal investigation, anything that you say can– and likely will – be used against you. This is especially true when a court is deciding how to award custody of children. If your Facebook wall is filled with images of you partying, chances are the court might take this into consideration. The same goes for if you use your Facebook wall as a way to voice concerns and your irritation about your ex-spouse’s short-comings. A court wants to know that you are capable of taking care of your children and being able to raise them in, ideally, a co-parenting situation.
Consult a Lawyer
As with anything regarding your divorce: child support, spousal support, marital property division, child visitation, etc… you should consult a family law attorney. A lawyer from the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA will be able to guide you through the divorce process. The Divorce & Family Law Offices of Divorce Law LA will provide you with the highest level of expertise and professionalism from our skilled attorneys. Our Divorce and Family Law Practice spans a wide spectrum of areas that include: divorce, high net-worth divorce, marital property division, child custody and visitation, and child support.
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