During a divorce, parties often have to consider various factors that might affect the outcome of the settlement.
For many people, the most significant factors that come to mind include finances, assets and liabilities, job requirements, and the relationship between parents and children. But these days, the way we use social media and online communication can have long-lasting implications in a divorce settlement.
While we can describe some circumstances in broad strokes for informational purposes, laws vary across the country, and every divorce is unique. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you navigate how your online presence can help—and hurt—you and your family during divorce proceedings.
Can social media posts be used as evidence in a New Jersey divorce case?
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok have become central to how we communicate. We use them to share feelings, life updates, personal information, and snapshots of our lives, celebrating the good and seeking support through the difficult.
But social media usage can create challenges during a divorce. They can affect divorce proceedings if they suggest that an individual may have lied or misled the court about any of the circumstances related to the divorce, such as:
- Financial assets or liabilities
- Cohabitation (when connected to alimony)
- Behaviors that can impact custody and parenting time
- And a host of other related issues
Social media posts, conversations, etc., can also be utilized in domestic violence proceedings to prove harassment and other acts of abuse.
Many people assume it’s enough to keep their accounts private, but remember that third parties can take screenshots or share posts, even from time-limited platforms like Snapchat, where pictures and videos disappear after 24 hours. There’s simply no guarantee that your posts will stay private.
What’s more, in the state of New Jersey, social media posts may be subpoenaed as evidence and examined by the courts, and depending on the platform, historical data may be preserved, retrieved, and used to your advantage and disadvantage.
Types of social media usage that can negatively affect your divorce case
We all know you can’t believe everything you read online. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t be held accountable for what you said on Facebook (or Instagram, or Snapchat, etc.) during your divorce.
Your social media posts or usage can negatively affect your divorce when they imply or reveal an inaccuracy in the documents and testimony that you have put forth. During discovery, both spouses must fully and accurately disclose all financial information, including:
- Bank statements
- Loan and credit card statements
- Income tax returns
- History of purchases and expenses
- Other relevant financial information
If a party presents inaccurate information during discovery and their social media posts tell a different story, it could negatively impact their settlement in the case, and the opposing party could file a motion with the court to ensure full financial disclosure.
Badmouthing your ex-spouse or co-parent
People often go to social media to vent, and, understandably, you might be looking for outlets to express your frustration or anger at your soon-to-be ex or co-parent during your divorce. But venting on social media differs from letting it all out with a trusted friend.
Airing personal information online during a divorce can negatively impact your case. For example, disparaging your ex-spouse or co-parent could lead to allegations of parental alienation or create hurdles with custody and parenting time negotiations.
Parental alienation occurs when one party attempts to align children against the other parent. While a parent may not realize the harm they’re doing, sabotaging a child’s relationship with the other parent hurts the well-being of the child.
If you are talking negatively about your spouse, ex-spouse or co-parent on social media, your children may learn about your comments, whether directly or indirectly, through family and friends. Additionally, these posts could impact how those around your family discuss your spouse, which could, in turn, lead to forms of parental alienation via those third parties.
Courts are extremely sensitive to matters involving parental alienation, and demonstrating such behavior can have a negative impact on custody negotiations, parenting time agreements, and more. If you can’t settle your matter, and the court determines that there is, in fact, parental alienation, it could influence the court’s decision regarding custody and parenting time arrangements.
New relationship updates
New relationships during a divorce can be tricky territory, and sharing about them on social media only makes it more complicated. While a new relationship may not be required disclosure in all cases, it could matter under certain circumstances, such as in situations where alimony is under discussion or has been agreed upon or ordered by the courts. Prenuptial clauses should also be considered—for example, if the couple had a prenuptial agreement with an infidelity clause.
It’s also wise to be cautious about posting any photos of trips or events with this new relationship, as it could imply a different financial status than stated in court documents. If a spouse claims that they can’t pay child support but is seen on their new significant other’s Instagram on vacation in Italy, it would imply, at the very least, that they might not be fully honest in their documentation. This could lead to greater scrutiny and give the court less faith in their testimony.
Pictures of new purchases
Similar to pictures on vacation, posting pictures of new purchases online could reveal that one party is hiding assets from the court. A picture of a new car in your Facebook timeline could suggest that you possess hidden assets and could be used as evidence in court.
It’s not just your feed that is visible, either. Alongside your own social media profile, these pictures could also be found in your friends’ feeds. If you’re tagged in a post, it could implicate similar findings, depending on the content.
When in doubt, stay off social media (or use it very conservatively!) throughout the divorce process
While many people think of their social media as an extension of their private self, digital communications and social media posts can and will be used as evidence in a divorce proceeding.
Individuals should assume that any information shared digitally can be used in court and placed before a judge, whether it’s a tweet, a friend’s Facebook post that you’re tagged in, texts, emails, or even a dating app profile.
An experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate your online presence and ensure that your private information is protected during a divorce. Alternatively, a trusted legal advisor can also help you if you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets that require further investigation.
Want to destress your divorce in New Jersey? Jacobs Berger can help
Our attorneys at Jacobs Berger, LLC have extensive experience guiding families through divorce. We help families find the right solution for their unique circumstances and the best path forward.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the divorce process or suspect that your ex-spouse is being less than truthful in their financial disclosures, contact our firm today to schedule a confidential case assessment.