Divorce is a messy process, and the more spouses fight with one another, the more complex the proceedings become. During a divorce, the discovery process entitles each spouse to information about the other.
Often, this process focuses on financial records, but discovery may also apply to email communications, text messages, social media posts, social media messages, and other electronic information.
What are the rules regarding the discovery of electronic and social media evidence in Virginia divorce proceedings?
Most social media content is fair game
Under both federal rules of evidence and Virginia state rules, electronic records are subject to discovery rules. Essentially, you and your spouse each have the right to request any information from the other so long as it is relevant and reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
For example, in an adultery case, discovery of emails, text messages, and social media accounts may help to prove the identity of a paramour, how long the relationship with the paramour was going on, and other potentially relevant information.
In a custody case, emails and text messages between a parent and a child may show interference or denigration by the other parent. Social media posts may show inappropriate behavior by a parent.
Can you protect your social media privacy in a divorce?
For many people, the discovery of social media evidence can lead to embarrassment and result in the disclosure of personal and private information. Some people will be tempted to avoid embarrassment by deleting certain records or even their social media accounts. But litigants should be forewarned. Do NOT delete or destroy records without discussing the situation with the lawyer.
In general, the best way to protect yourself from an embarrassing intrusion of your social media activity is to limit your activity from the beginning. Do not post photos of you getting drunk, doing drugs, or with others who are more than friends. Do not bad mouth your child’s parent on social media platforms or talk about your divorce or custody situation. Do not use emails, text messages, or social media to facilitate an extra-marital affair. Better yet, don’t have an extra-marital affair.
One of the best tips is to keep the divorce process from reaching a contentious state. Employing a collaborative approach and seeking to resolve matters outside of court, is always something that should be seriously considered not only for the benefit of your family and children, but also to potentially prevent any damaging or humiliating social media evidence from making its way into the public domain of family court.
Learning about what evidence can help or hurt in your divorce can lead to a strategy that helps you achieve your biggest goals in your divorce proceedings.