By Christine Fitzgerald
We all love social media. It’s a great way to catch up with old friends, see what people from high school are up to, and generally keep in touch. We all love it until we don’t love it anymore. Perhaps unfairly, social media has been blamed for the fall of civilization, rising divorce rates, and laissez faire attitude of millennials. In reality, civilization has not fallen. Millennials are inventive, smart and are doing just fine. However, in the context of relationships and in family law litigation, social media does have a number of pitfalls that can have an impact.
For people in a relationship, the following issues often arise in social media usage and can impact the relationship:
Usage: Your spouse or significant other may feel left out or ignored by your constant use of social media depending on the frequency and overall time you spend on it.
Concealed Usage: Both Snapchat and Instagram have a feature that allows conversations or photographs to disappear without having to delete them. Between your close friends, this feature is fun to use and a way to send funny and unflattering pictures of yourself, but when it comes to a couple lacking trust, it can appear that the significant other or spouse is being secretive and using social media to conceal an affair or inappropriate relationship.
Privacy: Not every person wants to be on social media. If your spouse or significant other does not want his or her picture on the internet, then you should consider checking with him or her before posting. Privacy is a hot topic these days.
During family law litigation, social media is a topic that comes up often and can truly change the course of a case if you are not careful. Here are some ways that social media can impact your family law litigation:
Discretion: If you are not careful with your posts, you may find yourself in a situation where the other party has “dirt” on you that they got through your own social media! For example, the litigant that claims that he or she cannot afford to pay support but posts about his or her lavish vacation may see his or her post attached to an application to the Court. This same concept can be used in a cohabitation, custody or many other types of cases.
Forbidden Use of Social Media: Often during a marriage or relationship, significant others share passwords, credit cards, or other confidential information. While this may be acceptable during the relationship, it is inappropriate and may be illegal during litigation. More specifically, a litigant that uses his or her significant other’s password to obtain relevant evidence from the other person’s social media accounts may be in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:156-3(a), which is more commonly known as the Wiretap Statute.
Spoliation: Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have a feature that highlights other posts or highlights from your previous posts called memories. Often, looking back at these memories may cause you to want to delete the now embarrassing post. Other times, you have posted something that may have an impact on your family law litigation and want to delete the post. If you are in the midst of family law litigation, you cannot go back and delete these posts as it is considered spoliation, and a Court may sanction you for failure to provide discovery or find an adverse inference against you for destroying or concealing evidence among other remedies.
Social media can be tricky to navigate in your life and even more difficult during your family law litigation. As shown above, your social media usage can have a big impact. Speak to an attorney at Seiden Family Law to ensure that your social media usage is not harming your case.