Social media has made staying in touch with friends and family almost effortless for its 4.8 billion users worldwide. Posting a photo of the concert or party you are attending, venting about what made you angry today, or sharing your plans for the weekend takes only seconds and everyone is apprised of what is happening in your life. But what you post on social media can have a profound, and oftentimes unexpected effect when it comes to things such as employment opportunities, your marriage, and surprisingly, even your divorce. This blog explores how social media can impact your Indiana divorce case and how you can avoid the negative consequences of social media use.
First, it is important to know that your social media posts may be admissible as evidence in court if there is testimony of a witness with knowledge that the post came from your social media page or profile (Ind. Evid. R. 901). In Strunk, the court ruled that a screen shot of Strunk’s Facebook profile page and a message he sent through Facebook were admissible based on the testimony of two witnesses who recognized Strunk’s profile picture and mutual friends, one of whom had messaged Strunk on Facebook before (Strunk v. State, 44 N.E.3d 1 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015)). Although Indiana is a no fault divorce state, allowing divorce on the grounds that there is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (I.C. 31-15-2-3(1)), property division, spousal maintenance, child custody, and parenting time are all issues stemming from a divorce which can be impacted by your social media activity. And it’s not uncommon for an attorney to obtain evidence from social media posts. Social media websites like Facebook and Instagram are treasure troves of ill thought-out posts that can potentially be damaging to your Indiana divorce case.
Most people are likely fully aware that it is never a good idea to post pictures of themselves engaging in illicit activities, such as using illegal drugs or committing any type of crime. However, even a photo of a seemingly innocent event shared on social media could be construed as something nefarious. Going out to dinner with a friend or family member and having a couple of beers, for instance, might be described in court as a substance abuse issue or your tendency to neglect the children while you go out drinking. Your newly remodeled kitchen, that vacation you so desperately needed, and even somewhat minor purchases could result in your spouse fighting for spousal maintenance or an unequal division of assets, using your shared photos as evidence that you are hiding assets or a source of income.
Not only should you watch what photos you share on social media during a divorce but remember that your words can be used against you as well. Making disparaging comments or remarks about your child’s other parent could lead to accusations of parental alienation, which may negatively affect your chances of being awarded custody and/or limit the amount of parenting time you might be granted. Parental alienation occurs when one parent engages in behaviors meant to disrupt or destroy the child’s relationship with his or her other parent. These attempts at disturbing the parent-child relationship can become severe enough to turn the child against the other parent and/or to warrant a diagnosis of the child with parental alienation syndrome (In re Paternity of V.A.M.C, 768 N.E.2d 990 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), quoting Richard A. Gardner, The Parental Alienation Syndrome 59-60 (1992)).
The photos and words you post on social media are not the only way it can negatively impact your Indiana divorce. Spending a considerable amount of time on social media websites may lead to accusations of child neglect if you are using social media during your parenting time or when the child is in your custody. Creating a dating profile that your child or spouse may see or hear about can also have unintended negative results possibly affecting divorce negotiations, your child’s mental health and well-being and conceivably any custody determination in your favor. The same goes for using the ‘in a relationship’ status or button. Social media is not the proper way to introduce your child to a new partner and might be seen as a lack of focus on the child’s best interests in favor of nurturing or pursuing a romantic relationship.
When it comes to using social media during a divorce, always keep in mind that you are not just sharing with a friend or family member. You are posting information on the internet for potentially all the world to see. Or at the very least, to be read aloud or displayed in court one day. Leave your dinners, concerts, and material possessions in your photo album on your phone and your angry thoughts about your spouse in a place more private than the world wide web.
This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.