Hitting the Wall: Facebook and Divorce
Facebook can serve as a conduit for people reuniting with old flames or meeting new partners. Spouses get concerned when they realize their significant others are spending more time online, getting texts in the middle of the night, or are suddenly very possessive of their phones, tablets and computers.
But whether or not Facebook is actually a cause of divorce remains to be seen – it could be that people who are unhappy in their relationships log in to social media sites more often as a means of escape, or to seek advice or emotional support.
Social Media & Grounds For Divorce
Since California is a no fault divorce state, spending more time online or engaging in virtual or actual affairs is not necessarily relevant in the eyes of a Family Law Court.
What many divorce lawyers can use however, is evidence from Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms that show a soon-to-be ex-spouse is not fully disclosing financial assets, which could affect the equitable distribution of property or financial liability.
Social media posts can also show when someone is engaging in behavior that could affect custody proceedings. Photos can help prove a case for bad parenting, or instability at home. They can also show when an individual is being dishonest about a need to change visitation schedules, i.e. if a parent claims a need to work late when s/he is really out at a concert, or checking in to a club or restaurant.
“Unfriending” or blocking an ex doesn’t necessarily give a Facebook user more privacy, as married couples tend to have many mutual friends online and offline. In most breakups, some of those friends will choose sides when a couple divorces – and are perfectly willing to provide information regarding the activities and posts to one party or the other.
Additionally, they may put photos and relate activities on their own walls and feeds, unwittingly providing a wealth of information for the opposing party and their attorneys.
These are examples of the information that can be found online by just about anyone. But what about data that seems to be hidden, or deleted?
Digital Discovery through Cyber Forensics
Every now and then a spouse makes a more serious attempt to hide information critical to divorce proceedings and settlements. In that case, divorce attorneys may hire a digital forensics expert.
Through forensics, digital discovery can reveal time stamps of activity and:
- Call logs and SIM card data
- Text messages and emails
- Calendar entries
- Photos and videos
- Visits to pornography sites
- Usernames and passwords
- Financial transfers, purchases and other monetary transactions
- Encrypted, damaged or temporary file information
Remember that even if someone tries to destroy their electronic devices, some data can still be retrieved through cyber forensics. Moreover, an attempt to destroy evidence can be used to bolster the opposing party’s case.
Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Certified Specialist in Family Law, designated by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Contact her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 818.907.3274.