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How Social Media May Impact Your Family Law Case

In today’s digital age, potentially infinite information can be accessed in any place and at any time, via our smartphones, computers, tablets, watches, etc. With this increase of accessibility, social media has become an integral part of everyday life for most people, allowing us to connect, share, and express ourselves online. However, the widespread use of social media platforms has introduced an entirely new dimension to legal proceedings, particularly in the realm of family law, and there are now many ways in which social media posts can impact family law proceedings.

Use of Social Media Platforms

A 2010 study conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that over 80 percent of family law attorneys reported using social media posts as evidence in divorce proceedings. Further, 66 percent of those attorneys cited Facebook as being their primary source for evidence. As of 2022, over 302 million Americans use social media. In 2023, the most popular sites in the U.S. include Facebook with 244 million users, Instagram with 151 million users, Snapchat with 109 million users. Another site that has seen a rapid increase in popularity is TikTok with 98 million users. Posts from social media platforms such as these have been consistently used as evidence in California courts and a seemingly harmless social media post has the ability to impact a case in numerous ways.

How Social Media Is Used As Evidence

Social media posts introduced as evidence in a family law proceeding may impact a case in a wide range of ways. Credibility is a cornerstone of all legal proceedings and posts can directly impact a person’s credibility in family law cases. If there are inconsistencies between a person’s online persona and their claims in court they may face challenges. Let us say, for example, if a parent is seeking sole custody of a child, but their social media posts suggest a lack of involvement or interest in their child’s life, or suggest that sole custody would not be in the best interests of the child, that parent may face challenges. If there are highly contested financial issues in a family law proceeding, a party’s social media posts depicting extravagant lifestyles that differ from what a party has held out to the court, this can raise significant questions. Finally, social media posts can be very indicative of a party’s behavior which can also impact family law proceedings. Disparaging posts made by one party about another or engaging in argumentative behavior with the other party online may cast doubt on the parties ability to co-parent with one another in the context of child custody.

How To Avoid Social Media Mistakes

It is important to be mindful and cautious of your online presence and anything that has the potential to be used against you in a family law proceeding. You can avoid such mistakes by not discussing the details of your case online, not talking about the opposing party online, adjusting your privacy settings to ensure your online profiles are not accessible to the public, or changing your passwords. These are just some ways to protect yourself from potential trouble when it comes to the use of your social media posts as evidence in family law proceedings. However, the only fail proof method to avoid such issues would be to err on the side of caution when posting and refrain from uploading anything that could be relevant to your case because even if information is no longer available on your social media platforms, there is always a possibility it can be found elsewhere online.

Digital Footprint

A digital footprint is both an intentional and unintentional record of your online activity. There are two types of digital footprints: passive and active.

A passive digital footprint is a body of data that is created when a person shares information about themselves online or simply visits websites. The information collected creates a paper trail of online activity even when a user has no intention to create such trail. The data that is collected includes things such as approximate locations and IP addresses. An example of a passive digital footprint is a geotag. As of 2021, 85 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Smartphones today have the capacity to geotag the location of every picture or video you take. Location is also geotagged in things such as social media story posts, tweets, and video and photo posts on social media. While location may seem like a minor detail there could be circumstances in a case where specificity of location is material.

An active digital footprint is when a social media user intentionally posts or shares something online. This information is then stored to an online database. Not only is the information you share stored in an online database, but information may also be screenshotted, screen recorded, and even saved or downloaded by other people. Even a post that is seemingly harmless at the time it is uploaded may be damaging in hindsight.

After a person has shared something online, it is virtually impossible to completely erase a digital footprint. This means that posts and information remain online years later and even long after you have forgotten about your posts or activity. It is important to recognize that social media posts and online presence in general can have long lasting effects, so it is important to ensure your online presence is not inconsistent with your claims in court or damaging to your position in your family law case.

Better Safe Than Sorry

As social media continues to evolve, its impact on family law proceedings in California becomes increasingly evident. The content shared online can have far-reaching consequences, affecting issues ranging from custody arrangements to property division. Individuals going through family law cases must exercise caution, understanding that their social media activity may be scrutinized in court. By adhering to guidelines that prioritize privacy, discretion, and respect, individuals can better navigate the complex intersection of social media and family law.

Every case is unique and therefore has different needs. Here at Harris & McKeown Law Firm we believe that the small and seemingly harmless details are just as important as the big picture when it comes to obtaining the best outcome for our clients. Our team of Certified Family Law Specialists have been assisting clients in Orange County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and Los Angeles County for over a decade. If you would like to speak with a family law attorney, you may schedule a free consultation appointment online or by calling (949) 297-6529.



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