Can Social Media Be Used as Evidence?


May 21, 2020

According to the Pew Research Center, about seven out of 10 adults in the United States use social media regularly. Nowadays, most people are extensively using social media during a time when divorce rates are relatively high. Researchers estimate that approximately 40 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Understandably, social media is increasingly being used as evidence in modern divorce cases.

When Does Social Media Play a Role in Divorce Cases?

Some divorces are not acrimonious, and both parties amicably agree to part ways. In those circumstances, social media may not play a role in the divorce process. However, in other cases, financial disputes about the distribution of assets or child custody may arise. When this happens, the individuals involved seek evidence to support their claim to assets or to influence child custody or support payments. Social media posts may furnish one type of evidence.

When Is Social Media Permitted as Evidence?

Social media posts may be used as evidence in court under the following circumstances:

  • The posts were public.
  • The posts were not obtained illegally, like hacking into an account.
  • Deception, such as creating a fake account, was not involved.

During divorce proceedings or child custody cases, parties may request information in order to  prepare for trial. Thus, private social media posts may be legally requested during proceedings if they are deemed relevant to establishing facts in the case.

How Are Social Media Posts Used as Evidence?

Social media posts may be used as evidence to prove various points during proceedings, including but not limited to the following:

  • Infidelity: Posts showing pictures with a girlfriend or boyfriend may be incriminating.
  • Lack of financial transparency: Posts boasting about a new job or expensive purchases may contradict assertions that a party has no money for alimony or child support.
  • Child endangerment: Videos or other posts showing reckless or inappropriate behavior in the presence of children can undermine child custody or child visitation rights.

Videos, photos, and posts from Facebook and Instagram, as well as online dating sites, have already been used in court proceedings involving divorce and child custody matters.

In addition, social media posts can be used to establish facts that may or may not have anything to do with the content of the post, such as:

  • Geographic location of the person at a specific time and date.
  • The person’s state of mind.
  • Proof of spending habits.

Facebook check-ins and posts to Foursquare show geographic location. Social media check-ins reveal where a person was in a specific point in time. LinkedIn profiles may be used in cases involving child support or alimony to reveal potential earning power.

Tips for Managing Social Media Accounts During Separation and Divorce

If you are contemplating a divorce and you are active on social media, bear in mind that a single post, video, or photo may be used as evidence against you. However, it is not recommended to delete posts as the court may view that as an attempt to destroy evidence. Rather, suspending or deactivating your account can help remove the possibility of your spouse attempting to gather evidence going forward in time. If you are unwilling to deactivate your account, at minimum, reset your profile settings to prohibit the general public from viewing your posts.

Navigating the process of divorce has always been difficult. In the age of social media, it is even more complex. By seeking the guidance of a skilled family law attorney, individuals may spare themselves additional stress created when divorce proceedings spill over into the public arena of social media.

Moorestown Divorce Lawyers at Stockton Family Law Provide Contemporary Legal Guidance for Individuals Contemplating Divorce

If you are seeking legal representation for divorce, child support, domestic violence, or any other family-related matter, our experienced Moorestown divorce lawyers at Stockton Family Law are available to help. We support clients through times of transition with skill and respect. To arrange a confidential consultation, call us at 856-412-5052 or complete our online form. Located in Moorestown, New Jersey, we serve families in Mount Laurel, Burlington County, Camden County, and throughout South Jersey.

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