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How Facebook can impact divorce

In an era when instant online connection is a reality for most Americans, it only makes sense that social networking sites are entering the family law sphere. Although many people utilize social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to connect with friends and family, what you post on these sites can have a significant impact on a custody battle or divorce proceeding.

When it comes to collecting information for a case, social media allows divorce lawyers to find information beyond traditional investigation methods. According to the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers, almost two-thirds of American lawyers use Facebook as a source of evidence in divorce cases.

Online privacy isn't guaranteed

Most people have the assumption that what they post is private, but in many instances, that's hardly the case. In addition, many believe that what they do online has no consequences in the real world (i.e. flirting online is no different than flirting at a bar). However, actions or comments made online can have repercussions in your real-life divorce or custody case. Whether it is a compromising photo you're tagged in, a high-end purchase you made, a questionable search history in your browser, or a post suggesting infidelity, what you do online can be used in court to your detriment.

Legal conundrums

Facebook data used in divorce cases varies widely depending on the issues involved in the case. For example, adultery is common grounds for divorce. In some states, including Tennessee, you must have direct proof of infidelity to seek a fault-based divorce. Since often there is little information to go on owing to the secretive nature of infidelity, adultery may be inferred through information and photos posted on Facebook and other social media outlets. Such posts could then be used as proof.

It doesn't stop at adultery either. What you post about online -- and what others may post about you -- could tell a court volumes about your parenting abilities. Increasingly, online evidence has been used to help judges determine parental fitness and custody cases.

What not to do online when facing divorce

If divorce is on the horizon, here are a few principles you should keep in mind when using social media:

  • Be careful about what you post, as what you say or do can be use against you.
  • You don't own your Facebook profile and Facebook could be asked to access your account by the court (with or without your knowledge).
  • Be mindful of what you share offline as well as online. Family members, co-workers and friends can post harmful information about you on their own Facebook pages or Instagram accounts.
  • Do not access your spouse's Facebook to find damaging information. Such information may be inadmissible in court, and more importantly, information obtained without consent is violation of the law and could lead to criminal charges.

If you are concerned about the effect social media use could have on your case, or you suspect your spouse has been tampering with your online accounts, a skilled divorce lawyer can advise you on your next steps to protect your rights and the integrity of your case.

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Mathis, Bates & Klinghard PLLC
412 Franklin Street
Clarksville, TN 37040

Phone: 931-444-3153
Fax: 931-278-6642
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