How Social Media Can Impact Your Maryland Divorce
Social media is an integral part of many people’s lives. To varying degrees, most of us have an online life, whether it’s posting a photo or sharing thoughts that pop into your head. But just as what we say and do in real life can have consequences, so can what we post and share on social media.
Your Social Media Posts Can and Will Be Used Against You in Your Maryland DivorceThis is particularly true if you are anticipating getting divorced in Maryland or are in the middle of divorce proceedings. With regularity, ill-advised social media posts are weaponized in Maryland divorces; being used to gain advantage or impact everything from property division to spousal support to child custody. Put bluntly, your posts, photos and comments - and even those of friends or acquaintances - can and will be used against you in divorce court.
Think about what you or others post on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Think about how people - maybe even yourself - describe themselves on dating sites like Match.com. Social media users can share copious and often intimate details about their lives; how they're feeling, things they've been up to, where they were and who they were with.
Back in the day, private investigators hired in divorce cases would spend days and weeks trying to gather such information which could prove a spouse was cheating, hiding assets, or engaging in other conduct which could negatively impact them in the divorce. Now, a few mouse clicks can get a spouse this treasure trove of information. You want to know what your spouse has been up to or if they're lying? Just look online.
It's no surprise then that more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers reported a dramatic increase in the amount of evidence they've collected from social media sites in the past five years, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Online Conduct Can Undermine Courtroom ClaimsA few years back, NBC News surveyed divorce and family law lawyers who provided several examples about how they used social media in divorce cases. For example, a husband went on Match.com and declared that he was single and childless while also seeking primary custody of his very real children. Another husband denied that he had anger management issues, a claim which was undermined by his Facebook profile in which he announced that "If you have the balls to get in my face, I'll kick your ass into submission."
Additionally, a mother testified under oath that she did not smoke marijuana, which made the picture she posted on Facebook of her partying with a joint in her mouth a serious problem for her. And a spouse bragging about his high-paying new job on Facebook killed his claim for alimony which was based on his assertion that he was unemployed.
All of the foregoing demonstrate how social media posts can be used to question parental fitness in custody and visitation matters or financial status which can impact support and alimony. Additionally, if you engage in online harassment of your spouse or loved ones through social media, texts, or email, you could actually be committing a Maryland criminal offense, which will not help your cause in your divorce case.
Don't Count on Your Privacy SettingsIt's not just publicly available posts that are turning up as exhibits in divorce courtrooms. If you think that your privacy settings will save you, think again.
Several courts have held that social media postings are not private, even when posted behind privacy walls. There have also been cases in which courts have ordered spouses to reveal passwords so private posts or photos can be accessed.
Additionally, parents who have mutual friends should be aware that those individuals might view the posts and decide to share the newly-found information with the other parent, which could lead to unintended consequences.
So, what can you do to protect yourself? If you can't quit the social media habit entirely, be extra careful what you post, and make absolutely no comments about your marriage, divorce or spouse. Think about how a picture or comment would look or sound in a courtroom, and pay close attention to what other individuals post on your page. A knowledgeable Maryland divorce attorney can further advise you on the role social media might play in your particular case.