The idea of creating social networks was initially centered around uniting various groups of people, such as the local circles of family and friends, which could then grow into a system of global-scale communication. However, reality, as always, was multifaceted. The influence of the virtual world on the real world is much more diverse.
Results of recent studies by Completecase.com show that about 15% of divorces in the world are due to social networks. The highest position in this ranking belongs to Facebook. 8% of divorces occurred due to this social network, and this number continues to grow.
According to the respondents, the main reason for their separation was the unfaithfulness of the other spouse, manifested in communication on social networks. In many cases, the reason for flirting was the lack of truthful information about the user’s marital status.
Currently, in Florida, more than 60% of those who file for divorce use the social network as a source of information and evidence in court. This process is logical – the more users share their personal information on social networks, the higher the likelihood that it will be used against them.
Posts on social networks as legitimate evidence
In Florida, any evidence is considered admissible if it is relevant and does not mislead the court and the jury into unfair judgment. Social media posts, photographs, correspondence are, in fact, digital evidence and must be proven to be authentic.
One of the most reliable ways to certify such evidence is to order a forensic examination. For instance, if we take electronic correspondence, an expert can identify the sender and recipient of the message and its content, as well as other information necessary for the adoption of a lawful and motivated judicial act by the court.
Once authenticity is established, the data obtained from social media can be taken into account in the following ways:
1. Evidence of financial assets and property
In Florida, the marital property is divided equitably between spouses, which does not necessarily mean 50/50. The factors affecting the division of assets and liabilities are the financial state and contribution of each spouse, the damage to family finances, the duration of the marriage, and other factors.
Pictures or posts on social media can be used as proof of hiding assets. Even a harmless trip to the restaurant can be used by your spouse to influence the division of property or the amount of alimony. Therefore, it is best to stay away from the social activity of any kind during the marriage dissolution process.
2. Evidence of infidelity
About a quarter of all causes of divorce are related to marital infidelity. In divorce proceedings, electronic correspondence is the most obvious evidence for adultery. But remember, that the way you obtained it is also crucial. The process of collecting this kind of data must be lawful, or the evidence will not be admissible.
If the fact of the infidelity is recognized as the reason for the divorce, this can significantly affect the division of property, the amount of alimony provided to the affected party, and the amount of compensation for moral harm and damage to health.
3. Evidence of violation of restraining orders
A restraining order is a legal order by the court that forbids one person to harm another in any way. In Florida, protective orders include such types as injunctions against domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and cyberstalking.
Any contact with your spouse on social media is equivalent to a regular phone call conversation and can be considered as a violation of a restrictive order. Besides, if you post information about your spouse in your social account, this may be viewed as online harassment.
Adverse effects on child custody issues
The court’s decision on child custody can also be affected by the postings on social media. For instance, one of the spouses can show evidence of inappropriate behavior by the other, which suggests an unfitness to be a parent. Such conduct may include smoking or using harmful substances around children or engaging them in a dangerous activity.
In general, spouses should very carefully and consciously conduct online activity, especially during the divorce process and the period after. It would be wise to refrain from using social networks and to double-check your pages for materials or information that could potentially lead to negative consequences in the divorce proceedings.
Ways to provide electronic correspondence to the court
One of the most challenging issues is the procedure for providing electronic correspondence to the court. The parties to the case and the court itself often raise the question of what form the electronic evidence should be presented in the case file because the law does not have requirements regarding the form and format.
The simplest option is to provide the judge with personal access to the social accounts where specific posts and correspondence are located. However, in this case, there is a problem with attaching them to the case materials. Another option is to provide the court with a printout of such evidence. This form is, in practice, accepted by the courts, provided that the other party does not dispute its existence and consequent inclusion in the case.
The task of any social network is to attract as many users as possible. To do this, the developers come up with various hooks that force users to stay online for as long as possible, such as music, pictures, statuses, comments, and emoticons.
When plunging headlong into a social network, do not forget that while you are enjoying the benefits of online communication, your spouse may be looking to use the information against you in the case of divorce. Be aware of what you post and what messages you send. Most importantly, avoid any activity that may affect the judge’s final decision during the divorce proceedings.