Understanding social media evidence and its effects on Utah divorces
During divorce, social media activity can reveal information that affects property division, alimony awards and child custody or visitation orders.
Many people in Salt Lake City have heard about recent research suggesting that social media use can have harmful effects during marriage. However, many of these same people may not realize that social media can also be influential during divorce. Social media, even when used carefully, can give away all kinds of private information. Some of this information may substantially change the terms of a divorce settlement.
Damaging insights Social media activity may shed light on a person’s finances, relationships, pastimes and marital conduct. This information may influence many aspects of a divorce, including:
- Child custody and parenting time. Among other factors, Utah judges consider a parent’s personal conduct, morals and ability to put the child’s needs first when awarding custody. Certain social media activity may put a parent in a bad light.
- Property division. All marital property is subject to equitable distribution during a Utah divorce. Online activity may give indications that a spouse is hiding or concealing marital assets that should be divided between both spouses.
- Spousal support. When awarding alimony, judges may consider a spouse’s need or ability to pay, along with the spouse’s fault in the divorce. Social media evidence may point to misrepresentations or to actions that contributed to the divorce, such as affairs.
As The Huffington Post notes, direct personal posts and posts from other parties may be used as evidence. Unfortunately, given the nature of online interactions, even innocent posts may be taken out of context in some cases.
Many people are surprised to learn that social media evidence can be used during divorce because they view this information as personal. However, information is usually not considered private after a person willingly publicly posts it. Additionally, as Forbes explains, various forms of private electronic communication can be subpoenaed and brought into court.
The use of this evidence is apparently becoming more common. Back in 2012, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that over 80 percent of members had observed increased use of social media evidence. This evidence may be even more widely used now. Information from networks as diverse as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn may all be pulled into divorce court.
Limiting damaging evidence According to Forbes, many experts advise divorcing adults to avoid sharing anything on social media that could adversely affect the divorce. While social media evidence may not always stand on its own, it may lead to closer scrutiny of issues that could affect the divorce settlement. Additionally, information shared on social media may contradict the information given in official legal statements, which can be damaging.
Working with an attorney Family law cases can be won or lost based on your social media image. Your posts, pictures, statements and predilections, as well as those of your family and friends, can all have an impact on your family law case. This is especially true if you’re in an alimony/spousal support battle.
Given these risks, it is advisable for people divorcing in Utah to simply deactivate their social media accounts during the proceedings. Seeking the advice of an attorney who is familiar with this area of law can also be beneficial. An attorney may be able to advise a person on the potential effects of social media activity and other actions during divorce.
emy a. cordano
I am Emy Cordano, a family law attorney based in Salt Lake City. I concentrate my practice on divorce and family law matters; I am not a general practice lawyer. Family law is all I do. Here you'll find additional articles and advice that I make available to anyone facing family law issues.
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