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February 11, 2019
Divorce and the digital footprint

Social media is now part of the fabric of how we engage and interact with others. Regardless of how one feels about its many pluses and minuses, that information is playing an ever increasing role in filing for divorce. Now posts of dinners out with the family, sporting triumphs, vacations, and other important activities are documented on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms.

Information that is shared in a open forum, such as a Tinder profile (dating site) is readily available for insight into the life of a separated spouse and thus have bearing on custody, parental plans and engagement with the family. It can also provide insight into spending habits, mental health issues like addiction or a parent’s work or social circle.

Preserving information for digital discovery

During the process of filing for divorce, there is a general effort to preserve information for discovery.  Ostensibly, this means documentation of production of financial records, tax returns, proof of relevant misbehavior or deceit, and copies of other important papers as well as computer files. It can also include depositions (sworn statements before a court reporter), interrogatories (your versions of the facts) and requests for admission. The discovery process can be lengthy, intrusive and frustrating, particularly for those who wish to keep their private life private.

It should be no surprise that social media posts will be a part of the discovery process. While it might not have the weight of a bank statement or witness testimony, one’s online profile is examined to uncover relevant information for determining the veracity of facts, claims and issues in dispute. It may not be traditional, but judges will consider it relevant. And remember the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Keeping the status quo

Couples are supposed to pay bills and maintain the general status quo without buying or selling large assets (unless that is part of a job description) when they file for divorce. Posting new photos of expensive trips, new cars or high-ticket hobbies will likely be noted, particularly if there are disagreements over income and the size of the marital estate.

Knowledgeable family law attorneys understand the nuances and potential implications of a party’s digital footprint. They can discuss strategies for how to address it when moving forward with the divorce.

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