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Don't delete it: social media and divorce proceedings

Facebook and Instagram are public hubs for sharing the most exciting parts of your life. Photos of couples and posts about new life developments are available at the tap of a screen, making staying connected easier than ever before.

After a breakup, it may feel cathartic to rid your social profiles of any reminder of your former partner. However, resisting this temptation can be a necessary part of your legal strategy in a divorce.

Social profiles essentially serve as personal archives for the user, tracking and maintaining evidence of life changes in real time. The day you announced you adopted the new puppy, the day your child took their first steps, the day your partner was promoted; it’s all stored in a timeline of activity for almost anyone to see.

Usefulness of social media activity in divorce

Why is it important to keep old content on your social media profiles? These posts can be helpful in the divorce process. You could use social media activity as evidence in deciding asset division, child custody and orders for spousal support.

Previous posts may show evidence of assets, including additional income sources, property or other belongings, and your behavior as a couple. In California, this can be a crucial component of a divorce proceeding because the state's community property laws require a generally 50/50 division of all marital property.

Deleting social media posts could qualify as spoliation of evidence, where a party knowingly fails to preserve evidence in pending or “reasonably foreseeable” litigation. Your posts during the divorce process may also be relevant, meaning you should be weary of how a post may look to viewers. Posts about luxury purchases or with a new partner may not reflect an ideal image during a divorce.

In terms of child custody, social profiles may provide insight into the relationships between each parent and the children. A child’s own post activity could prove to be relevant if there is an indication of irresponsible behavior by a parent.

Additionally, online activity may provide evidence of a spouse exaggerating his or her financial situation to manipulate spousal support agreements.

Preventive measures for couples

Some couples have taken to including social media guidelines in a prenuptial agreement to designate what is and is not allowed on social platforms during and following the marriage. Parties could choose to draft an agreement with violation penalties, such as requiring the party to each post.

You may also consider the impact of other parties posting anything that could be indicative of your relationship. Third party activity could impact a divorce process as well. Anything posted online can come back to help or hurt in the long run.

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