Divorce and Child Custody in the Social Media Era

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Texting, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Every year there seems to be some new social media medium to communicate with everyone you have ever met. It is hard to remember the days when you had to see someone in person, call them on a landline telephone, or write a letter to communicate. The point is that communication has changed in the digital era. When it comes to separations, divorces, and child custody battles, the digital age has become a real factor in the courtroom.

How Social Media Has Changed Communication

There are several factors that make digital and social media communication different. The first is the speed with which we communicate. If somebody says or does something that we do not like, we have the ability to instantly respond by text or social media. It is instant gratification. However, impulsive decisions are hardly ever the right decisions. For example, if you are separated and learn that your spouse is dating someone new, you can instantly send an angry, hate-filled message to let him or her know exactly what you are thinking.

The second factor is that many people now live their lives through social media, and over-document everything they are doing and thinking. This overkill of information can be absolute torture during a divorce or child custody fight, during which people are already on edge. Even if you diligently block your ex, there is a very real chance you are going to still have inadvertent glimpses into his or her life based on the social media activity of mutual friends and family members. It is difficult to be in a long-term relationship with someone without enmeshing your circles of friends. Are you ready to see real-time pictures and Facebook Live videos of your spouse’s new girlfriend having a great time with your child? This is not a problem that existed prior to social media unless you ran into them in person.

The final factor that distinguishes the digital and social media era is that the communication is easily documented and recorded. We’ve seen it countless times: a politician or public figure makes a horrible post on Twitter and then tries to delete it so that they don’t lose their jobs. Unfortunately, once it is out there, there is no deleting it. Similarly, if you say horrible things, or engage in threats or harassment, your texts and social media postings provide a time-stamped recording of your words and actions; sometimes with pictures and videos as a bonus!

Your Social Media Activity May Be Used Against You

The lesson here is to be mindful of your social media and texting behavior before and throughout your divorce, as it may be used against you in court. As family lawyers, we are seeing an increasing impact of texting and social media on legal proceedings. This is because courts are increasingly allowing this information to be used as evidence in court. The admissibility of this evidence comes down to an exception to hearsay: a statement by a party opponent. Essentially, a statement by either party in a divorce is fair game, since the other party has the ability to confront the statements. Further, for documents such as printouts of texts or social media exchanges, there must also be a demonstration that they are authentic.

New Direction Family Law Can Help You

The laws involving separations, divorces, and child custody are always evolving based on new legislation and case law from the courts of appeals. You want an attorney who keeps up with those changes. At New Direction Family Law, we have over twenty years of legal experience and knowledge, and continuously educate ourselves in changes in the law. If you need assistance, we can help you. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 for a consultation, or visit our website.