In recent years, some relationship experts have opined that ever-present technology is driving a growing wedge between more couples, in some instances playing a role in separation and divorce. But that’s not the only way advancing tech affects divorce. The digital trail left by those engrossed in ubiquitous electronic devices behind is a factor in a growing number of divorce cases.
Experienced New Jersey divorce lawyers know that courts continue to wrestle with how to balance privacy interests with the value of relevant information stored in these devices and on social media platforms.
On one hand, better tech can mean a smoother divorce process in some respects. Financial records one may have spent weeks or months chasing down before are now easily obtained and often stored in a single desktop folder or Excel sheet. Communications that were once solely a matter of he-said-she-said are now neatly preserved in text or email form. These systems also allow people to be more organized and prepared, which helps cut down not only on time but legal expenses.
Conversely though, some of these platforms make it so easy to fire off the first thought that comes to mind and get instant gratification for it. That’s a perilous prospect for someone on emotional rollercoaster, especially if they’re about to have every aspect of their finances, lifestyle, parenting style and personal life heavily scrutinized by a family law judge in a divorce case.
“It has changed the way we do business”
As noted in a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, social media, text messaging, emails and other electronic tools are used by divorce lawyers with increasing regularity. Facebook is one of the top sources of social media evidence in divorce cases, used by 66 percent of lawyers surveyed. Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are others. Text messages and emails are also frequently presented as evidence.
One divorce attorney commented to The New York Times, “It has changed the way we do business… Before, we would hire private investigators, have opposing spouses followed, try to interview acquaintances and friends. We would strive forever to get evidence, and now people can’t wait to post on Facebook who they are out drinking with. We come along and scoop that up.”
Bar associations have even conducted workshops for divorce lawyers, teaching them how to navigate these issues.
That’s why our Middlesex County divorce attorneys urge our clients to exercise great caution and discretion when sharing any information on digital platforms when preparing for or during divorce. Most courts will allow social media posts as evidence allowed in court so long as it is relevant and authentic and wasn’t obtained unlawfully. If there is good reason to believe private social media content will be relevant and not obtainable in another way, courts will sometimes even issue a subpoena for production it.
How Social Media Evidence Can Be Used For and Against You in Divorce
New Jersey became a no-fault divorce state in 2007. Couples can cite irreconcilable differences without having to be specific, so it’s not necessary to unearth evidence of your soon-to-be-ex’s wrongdoing in order to go your separate ways.
That said, sometimes such evidence can prove useful, whether you’re filing for divorce on no-fault or fault grounds, as outlined in N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-2.
Social media posts can be used to show almost anything.
- If a spouse has been having an affair, social media evidence may be used to prove fault grounds or to show that marital assets or property were diverted in furtherance of that relationship. That can mean the other spouse will get a greater share when it comes time to equitably distribute assets or determine alimony.
- It might be used as proof that a spouse violated the terms of a prenuptial agreement. With no-fault divorce, most New Jersey family law judges won’t sanction a person strictly for unfaithfulness, but an infidelity clause in a prenuptial agreement might.
- Social media posts can be used to reveal a spouse to be in possession of property they had not disclosed at the outset of the divorce case.
- Images or videos depicting drug use, alcohol abuse or addiction can play a factor in a divorce case on several fronts.
- Photographs or exchanges that show inappropriate or harmful activity around or involving children can come into play during a custody battle.
The ubiquity of social media means the possibilities for the kinds of evidence that could be collected are endless. Understanding how it might affect your divorce case and exercising caution about what you post is critical to obtaining favorable results in court.
To learn more about divorce in New Jersey, contact Rozin | Golinder Law today at (732) 810-0034.