Not many people realize that it is now common for screenshots and copies of social media posts to be used as evidence in family court proceedings.
In contact cases or financial proceedings, the other side can use social media posts such as texts and messages against you, and this can have a devastating impact on a case.
Having a social media account means that your life is an open book and that is sometimes not what you want.
I always explain to my clients that whatever they send to third parties, they have to expect that any post could become “public” within court proceedings.
Family law proceedings can be emotionally fraught and some people are tempted to use social media as a stage to play out their emotions.
The court can take a poor view of any party that uses it in this way, particularly if, for example, it invades the privacy of another party.
Graphic photos that are “shared” when a relationship breaks down are one example.
When dealing with injunctions for harassment or similar, social media posts are frequently used to prove or disprove abusive or threatening behaviour.
In children proceedings, they can be used as evidence of communications or contact arrangements between parents.
They can also be used to demonstrate that children are at risk of abusive behaviour.
In financial cases, they can be used to prove a certain lifestyle or to provide evidence of another relationship.
When looking at financial issues during divorce proceedings, the courts seek to understand the full extent of all assets of both parties.
If one person has tried to hide some of this information, social media posts could be used as evidence to prove what they say is false.
As an example, a person may say they do not have enough money to live on, but when the other party presents photos of them sipping cocktails in a five-star hotel in Dubai, it can affect their credibility and potentially destroy their case.
I have been directly involved with and am aware of several different cases recently where online evidence has played a key part in the proceedings.
I recently worked on a financial case in which one party relied almost entirely on social media posts to build their case.
In another case, a father was found to be lying about contact, stating he was available to see his children when it was quite clear he was out of the country.
In another children case, the fact a parent had been emotionally abusive to his children, was substantiated and proven via text messages and other social media platforms.
Social media, therefore, isn’t just a fun aspect of people’s lives – especially when matters sadly reach a stage where the courts have to become involved.
It can play a very important part in divorces, and financial and child contact agreements.
The judge of course decides what weight should be attached to any posts presented.
But as a rule of thumb – if it is online, it can be used as evidence for or against you.