The Impact of Social Media and Technology on Divorce and Custody Cases

The Impact of Social Media and Technology on Divorce and Custody Cases

Social media and technology are increasingly finding their way into the courtroom, particularly in divorce and custody cases. This is typically helpful for one party, usually the party who has not been posting to social media, and damaging to the other party, usually the party who has been posting on social media. With technology increasing the amount we share with the world, it’s important to remember that anything you post on social media could find its way to the courtroom.

The Basics.

It used to be that you could have a phone call with someone and what was discussed in that conversation was basically a “he-said-she-said” argument.  There was no proof of what was actually said. In today’s smartphone world with constantly evolving “apps,” people involved in divorce and custody cases are tending to record their conversations in hopes that they can catch the other party in a lie, or a slip-up, or say anything that could hurt them in court.

Increasingly, we are seeing recorded phone conversations being entered into evidence and played in open court for the judge to consider. Along the same lines, it is now possible to print out text message strands between you and another person, and text messages are increasingly being introduced into the court’s record. Anytime you pick up your phone to have a conversation, whether voice or text, there may be an exact record of what was said.

He Said. She Said.

Texting and phone calls tend to be introduced as evidence of conversations between the parties. On the flip side, there have also been changes in how we are proving what one party said to another person. This tends to involve a derogatory comment made about one party by the other party but is not limited to such comments.

Let’s look at this scenario as an example: you are angry with your ex-spouse because he/she is late on child support again. Before smartphones, you might have picked up the land-line and called your best friend to vent and that would be the end of it. In today’s world, however, let’s suppose you turn to Facebook and post: “ugh, he’s late again, he obviously doesn’t care about our children.” This may seem innocent enough at first, but what if your child is 16 and has a Facebook account of his own? What if that 16 year old child somehow saw that post; maybe a friend of a friend “liked” it so it showed up on his news feed? Now you may be guilty of disparaging a parent in front of a child (which depending on your case, could be a violation of a court order). And that’s not even considering the damage that has been done to your child’s self-esteem and relationship with the other parent.

Adultery. As Seen on Facebook.

Let’s look at another scenario: you and your spouse are thinking about separating, but have not yet made the final decision to separate and divorce yet. You turn to a friend for support and suddenly you find yourself in a more romantic relationship with that friend than you intended. Let’s use Facebook again: you’ve blocked your spouse from your Facebook page so he/she can’t see anything you post, so you’re safe, right? You don’t mind that your friend is now posting pictures of you holding hands, maybe even a cute kissing photo. Your spouse doesn’t say anything to you so he/she must not have seen it.

Flash forward six months and you are in court arguing over whether you committed adultery. Turns out, you forgot to block your spouse’s sister; she saw the photos and sent them to your spouse. While this may not be enough to prove adultery and maybe you never even committed adultery, you are suddenly in a position to defend yourself against that claim.

Think First.

These are only a few examples of how technology and social media are changing the way divorce and custody cases are being handled throughout the country. Because we now live in a world where we tend to share our frustrations or our private moments with more and more people, we need to remember that what we share with our “friends” could end up in the hands of people who will use those frustrations and private moments against us.

The introduction of social media and technology into the courtroom is only growing and will become a more prevalent way to prove a case for divorce or custody in the future.

Featured image: “Two Parents Fighting Over Child In Divorce Concept ” from Shutterstock.

About Cassie Baudean

Cassie Baudean
Licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Cassie has dedicated her time to her clients in focusing on each client's particular legal situation in many different areas of law. She provides client-centered legal advice, focusing on helping her clients in the most convenient way possible. Cassie also participates as a mentor to newly licensed attorneys at the Richmond Legal Development Center.