Is Social Media Evidence Admissible in a Divorce Case?
Many factors have to be taken into account before content on social media is used as evidence in court. But yes, your Facebook posts can serve as evidence against you in court. In fact, Facebook has become so weighty in divorce issues such that the first advice most lawyers give to their clients is to avoid social media during divorce proceedings.
Before we go to specific examples, below are the three main conditions that evidences from social media must meet before they are considered admissible in court:
The evidence in question must have some weight on the case. In other words, it should be able to influence the ruling if it is admitted. It is upon the person presenting the evidence to show that it is relevant. If the antagonist is able to convince the court that such evidence is not necessary, it will be rendered invalid, whether it is true or not.
It should be possible to find source of the evidence if need be. In private sites where posts can be instantly and completely deleted from the system, it is not easy to trace them after such actions.
In Facebook, however, content on walls can still be recovered months after you’ve pressed the “delete” button. In addition, if another person shared the content on their own wall, you cannot delete it from there since you no longer have rights over it.
Also, note that, if it can be proven that you removed content from your wall with intent to hide it from the court and influence ongoing proceedings, you might face charges of spoliation.
All evidence collection must be done lawfully. This means that your private inbox cannot be accessed without your consent. However, Facebook walls are considered public hence any evidence acquired from there is admissible, provided it can be traced to you.
Of importance to note is that you don’t have to be the author of a post for it to be used against you; if a friend tags you in a post and you allow it to display on your wall, some jurisdictions will pin responsibility on you.
Instances where Facebook may work against you
Let’s use the example of child custody and support claims: You are trying to convince the court that you are a responsible parent. Suddenly, your (former) partner reveals a Facebook post in which you swore how you drank till you blacked out. Worse, a friend attaches pictures or videos of you gulping down bottles.
Another example is when you claim that you are broke yet, on your wall, there are recent pictures of you shopping overseas or staying in expensive hotels.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost when you act early. If you think that there is something that you shared on your wall that might affect your leverage in divorce proceedings, tell your lawyer immediately about it. There are loopholes that experienced family law attorneys may pursue to significantly reduce the impact of such facts.
By Joseph Annutto