San Diego Divorce Lawyers Discuss Social Media
In the digital world that we now live in, there are millions of people who have had their privacy attacked. And while there are things that can be done when one person invades another’s privacy, the situation is tricky when a divorce is involved. So how can individuals protect their privacy online and in the digital world while going through a divorce? When it comes to things like emails, texts, and social media profiles, the law is not always clear.
A divorce can bring up bitter emotions, complicated financial situations, and even family secrets – all of which can be revealed through social media. Understanding what aspects of social media can influence your case is extremely difficult, which is why you should have a skilled San Diego divorce lawyer at your side. At Mattis Law, A.P.C., our lawyers can work to protect your privacy rights and ensure your assets are properly divided. If you are going through a divorce and need excellent legal guidance, contact our office at (858) 328-4400 to schedule a free consultation.
Digital space, like an email account, is often treated as personal property. If a couple owns a home together, that asset would be accessible to both parties until the divorce finalized who it belonged to. The same is true with email accounts, but only if the couple owned the account together. In these cases, one person could log in and read emails sent or received by the other person. Because he or she has partial ownership of the account, any evidence found there could be admissible in court.
That is not the case when an email account is owned by only one person. In that situation, only the owner of the account is legally allowed to log in. In fact, if the other individual tries to access it with an electronic device or a wiring accessory, this may violate San Diego’s wiretapping laws.
Because phones are also personal property, the same principle is true for text messages. If the couple owns the phone jointly, both have legal access to it. But if only one person owns the phone, the contents on the phone should remain private and are not admissible as evidence.
Social media websites and profiles have an entirely different nature, unlike other types of digital space. These websites are public, so no one can expect any real amount of privacy when using them. While one person can block another person from following or seeing tweets and Facebook posts, if someone circumvents those measures and ends up seeing the information anyway, this would not be considered illegal. While you may think nothing of it right now, an estimated 80% of divorces in recent years have included Facebook posts as pieces of evidence, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, so there is a real possibility that your posts can be evidence in your case.
While California is a no-fault state when it comes to ending a marriage, evidence found on a social media platform can drastically impact your divorce. For example, let us say a couple is going through a contentious divorce, and the court is trying to determine how much spousal support is appropriate. If a wife posts photos on Instagram of lavish purchases, lunches at expensive restaurants, and pricey spa days despite claiming that she is struggling financially, it may reveal that she has hidden assets or is misusing marital funds. The court may require a more in-depth look at her financial records and can potentially deny her spousal support.
However, the context of these posts should also be taken into account. What if the wife’s friend paid for the spa treatment, or she paid for her purchases with a gift card? She would need to clearly explain in court that these were one-time events and that the posts do not fully represent her current financial needs.
But finances are not the only issue at stake when social media is brought into a divorce; in fact, child custody could be on the line. Some parents use social media to vent their daily frustrations or share their struggles raising a family. If one parent complains about taking care of the kids, the other parent may use those posts to argue that he is not as loving or caring as he appears. This can even lead to allegations of parental alienation where one parent tries to turn a child against the other parent through negative comments. Even when posted as jokes, the courts may take a hard look at your social media account to determine if you are fit to have custody.
But there is a way for couples to protect themselves, and that’s by including a digital privacy clause within a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. These clauses state that one spouse cannot reveal the personal information of the other spouse should a divorce ever take place. These clauses cover electronic devices such as phones and laptops, and prohibit any content on them from becoming evidence in court.
With a digital privacy clause in place, even couples who share an email account or cell phone would not be able to present any findings from that device. Without a clause like this, that evidence may be allowed.
The clauses are important for ensuring damning evidence doesn’t come up during the divorce proceedings, and also help protect a person’s privacy after the divorce becomes final. Without these clauses, confidential information could become part of the public record. For very wealthy or prominent public figures, they are a must; but everyone could benefit from less "oversharing" in a nasty divorce.
Another growing issue in California divorces is the rise of business accounts. Many small businesses, online shops, and mom-and-pop stores use social media to market their services and products. In fact, some companies pull the majority of their revenue and sales from social media. If your divorce involves a small business, it is possible that any related social media accounts could be subject to property division.
Many couples also have joint Twitter, Instagram, and Tik-Tok accounts to document their relationships. In some cases, these accounts can create the basis for a successful business or brand. But, if these influencer couples were ever to get divorced, they may be required to include their social media accounts in their marital assets, which would be incredibly complicated.
In each situation, your best option is to discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible. Not only can we review your case with a financial expert who can work to determine the value of your accounts, but we can also represent you in court to ensure that you receive your fair share.
The laws regarding social media and divorce are in no way simple, but you do have options. For one, if you’re about to get married, or have recently gotten married, and do not have a postnuptial or prenuptial agreement, speak to Mattis Law, A.P.C. Our San Diego divorce lawyers know the law surrounding these marital agreements, and we know how today’s ever-changing digital world affects them. We can include a digital privacy clause in your agreement to ensure your privacy is protected if you ever separate. In addition, if you need assistance dividing a social media account in a divorce, we can use our extensive financial knowledge to guide you through the process. To learn what options are available to you in a San Diego divorce, call Mattis Law, A.P.C., at (858) 328-4400 today and discuss your case.