Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare have changed the way people connect to friends, family and co-workers. For many users of these services, the day-to-day details of life have become more public, with far-reaching consequences.
While these sites and services allow us all to connect in ways we never previously imagined, they also pose new challenges with respect to personal privacy. Failing to recognize these challenges can impact one's life online and offline, causing marital strife and providing divorce attorneys with fodder for divorce negotiations.
According to a recent survey by the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81 percent of divorce attorneys have seen an increase in the number of cases using social media evidence since 2005. Social media users often post pictures, messages or other materials that might adversely affect the direction of divorce settlement negotiations.
These users may be confused about a site's privacy settings, mistakenly believe particular online activities are anonymous or place too much trust in mutual friends. Vacation photos taken in exotic locales may indicate that a spouse is hiding funds to avoid spousal maintenance payments. Information collected from social media sites may be used to demonstrate that a divorcing spouse has violated the terms of a court order, such as to avoid alcohol and drugs.
Seeking evidence of this sort of behavior online is hardly underhanded or unfair. Users of social media sites and services have opened themselves and their behavior to public scrutiny. Because more of us are making social media a part of our daily lives, the use of this sort of evidence in divorce cases is likely to become routine.
Arguably part of the challenge stems from the unique public and private nature of many social networking sites. People going through divorce have long turned to friends for support. Largely, these same friends exist in spaces like Facebook, making it feel like a private space for sharing information. However, these sites are more public than they often seem. Accordingly, the best advice is to save private conversations for truly private spaces.
If you or someone you love is going through a divorce, contact an experienced divorce attorney who will investigate all possible sources of favorable evidence, including social media. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can assess your case and make sure that your interests are protected throughout the process.