Caution – Social Media, Electronic Evidence, and Divorce: Guarding Against Negative Impact
In today’s world of increasing reliance on cloud-based computing, and the ability to obtain almost everything a person needs to live with a few clicks of a mouse, social media is a large and important presence in many people’s lives. Using social media to update friends and family is routine for many people and one of the original purposes behind this technology, but it is fast becoming a way for people to promote their businesses, earn a living, organize political and activist groups, and vet potential employees or clients. Many are so used to using social media to document their daily lives that they may not think about the potential ways it could be used against them. Anyone involved in a divorce case should keep this possibility in mind, and think about the potential negative consequences sharing information on social media could bring. Not only can it be used as evidence in court proceedings, it is now becoming the basis for many legal actions. Most recently, former Congressman Anthony Weiner is facing divorce and possible criminal charges after explicit texts he sent to young women, including a 15-year-old girl, came to light. Certainly, this situation is outside the norm, but understanding what kinds of electronic evidence can be used in court, and how to minimize the disclosure of damaging information, is relevant for all parties seeking divorce.
Types of Electronic Evidence Used in Lawsuits
Parties involved in divorce cases, especially those that are highly contentious, should expect the other side, at a minimum, to demand records related to texts, cell phone use, and emails. These particular forms of electronic communication are targeted because almost everyone uses them to some extent, even if they avoid more popular social media platforms. Typically, text messages and emails will be combed for information related to immoral activities and emotional outbursts that show unstable mental states. Cell phone call logs and GPS location records are useful to indicate how a spouse is spending non-family time and could reveal indiscretions or embarrassing obsessions.
Social media can be a goldmine of potential evidence that helps or hurts a divorce case. It documents how people spend their time, with whom they associate, and records states of mind at particular moments in time. Importantly, this information exists forever, and an effort to delete damning tidbits is easily discovered and can be very damaging in court. Damaging or destroying evidence is referred to as spoliation, and can bring serious consequences for the guilty party. Courts are permitted issue sanctions for these actions that include casting all legal presumptions in favor of the innocent spouse and dismissing claims of the guilty party.
How to Protect Yourself on Social Media
The best way to mitigate or eliminate potential damage from social media posts is completely suspend its use while the divorce case is pending. If that is not possible, attempt to refrain from discussing the divorce or any related issues. Further, do not create posts related to new purchases, social activities, and inflammatory topics that could be twisted in court and ultimately damage a person’s case. Finally, think about how someone else could view one’s thoughts before writing, and if there is any potential to spin it negatively, do not write it down.
Seek Legal Advice
Digital information is a minefield that can hurt or help your case. If you are contemplating divorce, discussing the kinds of information a person can expect to see on your email, cell phone, and social media accounts is crucial to building a case. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Group, P.A. is well versed in a large variety of family law matters, and will work to obtain the best possible outcome. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+