How Could the Use of Social Media Impact My Divorce Case?
It would be nice to think that what you do during your private time would be just that – private. However, when it comes to divorce in South Carolina, there is a variety of social media evidence that can be collected and used against you. And because most people today have a smartphone, tablet, and/or laptop, and are therefore more connected to the social world than ever before, there may be more evidence against you than you think. Here’s a look at what you need to know about how the use of social media could impact your South Carolina divorce.
Types of Social Media Evidence that Can Be Used Against You
Nearly anything that you share these days, whether through a social media site or a private text message to a trusted friend or confidant, can be used against you. To be sure, anything that is posted publicly, such as status updates, pictures, and location check-ins on social media are fair game for the other side to use against you without permission from the court (i.e. the other lawyer does not need a warrant, subpoena, or your password and permission to access and use public data).
However, it is not just your public information that is at risk of being used against you. While it would be illegal for another party to access your text messages or emails without your permission, this type of information can be subpoenaed or requested through the discovery process and can be admitted into court.
For social media platforms like Facebook, you may be forced to download your entire history and hand it over to the other side. So remember, just because you delete a picture, message or post doesn’t mean it couldn’t come back to haunt you later. Items like these are stored in Facebook’s data bank and can potentially be exposed at a later date.
Understanding that, if you’re going through or anticipate going through a divorce or custody litigation, be conscious of what you post and share, whether that means pictures, comments, private messages or public posts. The most simple perspective on social media – don’t do anything on social media you would be embarrassed for your significant other or a judge to see if you ended up in family court.
How Social Media Could Impact Your Divorce or Custody Action
There are four main issues in a divorce case: alimony/spousal support, child custody, division of property and assets, and child support. Each of these elements may be affected by evidence found through social media. Consider how social media evidence could impact each of the issues in divorce:
• Alimony/spousal support. Whether or not a court awards spousal support, in what amount, and for how long, depends on a number of factors. Some of these factors include the income and resources of both parties, marital misconduct, and the current financial needs of both spouses. Consider the situation in which your spouse is seeking alimony from you, and you tell the court that you cannot afford alimony because you are unemployed, and are currently living on a budget. However, evidence on social media suggests that not only did you get offered a new job (which you accepted and boasted about online), but that you have also been making a number of expensive purchases, including a brand new car for yourself.
• Also know that adultery is an absolute bar to the receipt of alimony. So if your spouse was able to obtain evidence through social media that you had communications with a potential romantic partner, he/she could use that to begin building evidence against you for adultery so you would be ineligible to receive alimony, whether or not physical adultery actually occurred.
• Child custody and child support. Child custody is a very sensitive issue in divorce, and both parents typically want to be able to spend as much time with their children as possible. Because a child custody determination must be made within the child’s best interest, the court will look at a variety of sources of evidence to determine what those “best interests” are. Consider a situation in which you are seeking custody of your child, but evidence on social media suggests that rather than spending time with your child, you were getting intoxicated while out or doing inappropriate things with friends. Or, consider you sent a number of Facebook messages to your spouse, bashing them relentlessly and threatening to deny them visitation with your child if you are awarded custody. These messages could be used against you to lead the court to believe that you are not suited to care for your child, and are not committed to preserving the relationship between your child and their other parent.
• Property division. Property in South Carolina must be split amongst divorcing spouses in a manner that is equitable, which, like alimony, is determined by considering a number of factors. If one party wasted or inappropriately used marital resources, this can affect a property division settlement. Text messages, photos, or social media updates may provide evidence that you inappropriately used marital funds, such as buying expensive gifts for your new partner, buying yourself an expensive present, or gambling.
How Our Law Firm Can Help You When You Are Going through a Divorce or Custody Action
If you are going through a divorce or custody action in South Carolina, our experienced and compassionate family law attorneys at The Cate Law Firm, P.A. can help you to understand how social media evidence can be used against you, and best practices for social media. We can also build a case that prioritizes your best interests, represent you during negotiations and mediations, and represent you in court if necessary. Call The Cate Law Firm today for your initial consultation at 864-585-4226 or by utilizing our online contact form.