Facebook was launched in 2004. Within a couple years, it was available to the general public (outside of college campuses). Since then, Facebook use has become ubiquitous, and a wave of other social media platforms have also been widely adopted. If social media is just a trend, it is not a trend that will be dying out anytime soon.
For better and worse, social media has played a major role in marriage and divorce. In some cases, it is a factor in the breakup of the marriage. In others, it is a strong source of evidence during family law court proceedings.
Earlier this year, one Colorado news station did a story about infidelity facilitated by social media. Everyone interviewed for the story – from average people to marriage therapists to divorce lawyers – agreed that they have witnessed marriages jeopardized or ended due to physical or emotional affairs facilitated by social media sites like Facebook. Whether the romantic interest is a former boyfriend/girlfriend, a work colleague or stranger, social media makes it easier and perhaps more tempting to cheat.
To be sure, this story is far from new. But the more important angle from a legal perspective is the role that social media plays in divorce and custody matters. According to a survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, some 81 percent of family law attorneys have utilized evidence gathered from social media on behalf of their clients.
From what people post on sites like Facebook, it is often possible to make many inferences or find proof about a person’s lifestyle, spending habits, parenting decisions, drug and alcohol use, infidelity, and public treatment of their estranged spouse. All of this information would likely be relevant in nearly every issue decided in family law disputes, including property division, child custody, spousal support and child support.
If you’re about to go through divorce, it’s important to understand the outsized role that social media might play in terms of evidence gathering. As such, it is wise to greatly limit or suspend your own social media use. You may also wish to talk to your attorney about subpoenaing your spouse’s social media information to be used during proceedings.