One of the most pervasive social changes that has occurred in California and the United States in the last 20 years is the increasing use of social media to begin, renew or maintain personal relationships. A person may think he or she are pursuing an innocent relationship with an old friend and suddenly, platonic feelings become romantic. Divorces that spring from information posted on social media are often called “Facebook divorces.”
The California Rules of Evidence make no special allowance for the use of social media in a divorce case, but the existing rules provide plenty of guidance that should also serve as a warning to anyone who is a frequent user of Facebook or Twitter. A Facebook posting, for example, may be admissible as the statement of an adverse party or an admission. Photos taken by a third party can used in court as evidence of marital infidelity. Social media posts can also be used to gather evidence about a spouse’s business or the existence of an extra-marital relationship.
Many experts have suggested the following precautions to avoid a Facebook divorce. Use caution in posting pictures and statements on Facebook. Whatever a person says in a post can be offered in evidence. A person cannot control material posted on a public media site. Facebook, for example, has the legal right to decide whether it wants to release posts to another party.
A person should pay attention to the information friends and family members post; this information may be very harmful to a person during the division of property. Finally, using extensive social media postings to deal with anger or stress during the marriage can create harmful statements that may be used by the other party to gain advantage in the divorce. Anyone who suspects that the adverse party in a divorce is using social media to gain an advantage may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice and assistance.