Increasingly for the last quarter-century or so, the internet has profoundly affected the way we live, work, and relate to others.
It’s changed the way that we do our shopping and our banking, the way that we keep up with distant friends and loved ones, and the way that we stay abreast of news, sports, and weather.
Social media has even changed how we conduct our most intimate personal relationships, and in a growing number of cases in southern California, the way we get divorced.
In a 2012 survey of British divorce lawyers, the divorce lawyers reported that approximately one in three divorces are now the result of social media-related disagreements.
A more recent study published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that cohabiting and married persons who use Facebook frequently are likely to “experience Facebook-related conflict with their romantic partners” that could lead to breakup or divorce.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri, the University of Hawaii, and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, surveyed 205 Facebook users ages 18 and up.
The social media sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and others – boast almost two billion users globally.
Facebook is by far the most popular social networking site with more than one billion users who make an average of ninety posts a month. In and even after a California divorce proceeding, what spouses have shared on social media sites is increasingly being used as evidence in disputes over child support, child custody, alimony, and more.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has reported that 81 percent of the divorce lawyers they’ve surveyed are handling more divorce cases where social media posts are introduced as evidence.
Text messages and emails are also admissible in divorce trials and may be subject to subpoenas.
If one spouse reveals something on Facebook or in a text message that contradicts what he or she has disclosed to a divorce court – about personal finances, for example – it is evidence of dishonesty, and the other spouse’s attorney will inevitably find that post or text and present it to the court.
Many divorce attorneys are now advising their clients to avoid social media entirely during the divorce process. If you don’t want a judge to see it – or your spouse’s attorney – don’t post it.
CAN YOUR INCOME AND ASSETS BE DETERMINED FROM SOCIAL MEDIA?
You may not be spelling out your annual income or your net worth online for the world to see, but it’s human nature for most people to brag a little when they experience some prosperity.
If someone claims in court to have a low income – in an effort to duck out of child support or alimony payments – but the same person is posting photos of his or her luxury cars and costly vacations, those posts can be used in court to reveal the truth.
Even when someone’s spouse is “blocked” from seeing someone’s posts, what that person’s friends are posting online can be telling.
If you take an expensive vacation with a friend, and the friend posts photos and comments about the vacation, those posts can also become evidence in a divorce trial.
If someone else posts unhelpful comments or photographs, Facebook lets you “untag” yourself from the post, or you can politely ask your acquaintance to delete it.
One divorce attorney in Texas found a LinkedIn profile promoting a side business – a separate income source – that his client’s spouse had not disclosed to the court.
The existence of the LinkedIn post helped his client to obtain the child support amount that she and her child needed and deserved.
“It’s amazing the wealth of information now at our fingertips in a divorce case,” the divorce lawyer said.
“What would have once taken weeks of research to discover, if at all, can now be found in the click of a mouse.”
DO PRIVACY SETTINGS HELP?
Social media is convenient, useful, and entertaining, but those who enjoy social media should fully understand that no matter how you adjust the privacy settings, everything that you post on Facebook, LinkedIn, or on any other social media site is recorded, stored somewhere, and could conceivably be used against you.
Deleting a post or an email doesn’t destroy it. If you’re divorcing or anticipating a divorce, the best way to use social media is not at all.
However, you should also understand that once a spouse files for divorce, neither partner should try to cancel their social media accounts or try to delete their previous posts.
Once the legal process begins in a California divorce, canceling accounts or deleting posts could be considered an attempt to tamper with or destroy evidence.
A divorce attorney can give you the legal advice that you’ll need regarding your social media posts and all other aspects of obtaining a divorce in this state.
HOW SHOULD A PERSON PREPARE FOR A DIVORCE TRIAL?
Before you enter a California courtroom for a divorce trial, you should be as thoroughly prepared as possible for whatever might happen.
Don’t hesitate to ask your attorney to answer your divorce questions and to address your concerns.
Knowing what to expect in the divorce process can eliminate much of the anxiety and stress, and it allows you to focus entirely on the issues before you.
Along with keeping you informed, a good California divorce lawyer can also develop an effective divorce strategy and fight aggressively for the fair treatment you deserve.
When the disputes between divorcing spouses cannot be resolved outside of the courtroom, a divorce trial is the unavoidable final option.
Divorce trials are always tough, and emotions can be highly-charged, so it’s imperative to focus on the issues, to know in advance what to expect, and to have a skilled Orange County divorce attorney advising you and advocating on your behalf.
To obtain a divorce in California, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six successive months and must be a resident of the county where the divorce petition is filed for a minimum of three consecutive months.
In the state of California, if divorcing partners can agree in advance on matters like the distribution and division of marital assets, child custody, child support, and/or alimony, the divorce process can often move quickly to a resolution.