Facebook Divorce: Can Facebook Data Be Used as Evidence in a Divorce?

 Can Facebook Data Be Used as Evidence in a Divorce

Facebook is changing the world in a lot of ways.  For example, it allows old friends who never talk in person to see the photos from each other’s latest vacation. It lets you learn that your uncle has some strange political ideas, too. Facebook also has a tremendous impact on marriage.  There is even a term called “Facebook divorce” that has been coined to describe a divorce caused by social media.

Facebook  causes a lot of divorces

A recent study published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that Facebook was a leading cause of divorce.  Many people are spending so much time on the site that it makes their spouse uncomfortable and that can lead to misunderstandings and feelings of jealousy.  A previous study had found that heavy Facebook users were more likely to monitor what their romantic partners are doing online. The study in Cyberpsychology went one step further and found that heavy Facebook use led to more unstable relationships, as partners fight over snooping and communications with past partners.  Another study found that one in three divorces was caused by social media use.

Even Facebook researchers recently admitted that it can have negative side effects.  People that spend a lot of time reading Facebook without talking to anybody will often feel worse about themselves.  Facebook is trying to improve by highlighting more positive information and demoting things like clickbait headlines, so perhaps one day the service can help make marriages happier.  For now, the Facebook divorce phenomenon continues.

Can Facebook data be used in divorce

Of course, if a divorce is caused by Facebook then there may be a lot of relevant evidence on Facebook.  The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has released studies showing that nearly all divorce lawyers (97%) have seen a sharp uptick in evidence from smartphones being used in court.  Facebook is the most popular app being used, as Facebook evidence is being used in 41% of cases.

Divorce lawyers point out that so much of their work in the old days would have involved private investigators following a suspected cheater of a spouse.  Now, people carry around a smartphone that constantly tracks their location. A spouse that is cheating may also have messages with another spouse that can prove infidelity.  Or, one spouse may have spent a bunch of money traveling to see a lover and all those beautiful Facebook pictures from the beach can be evidence that one spouse is wasting money to the detriment of the marriage.  

Getting data from Facebook as not easy as it seems

Getting that Facebook data can be difficult, though.  Federal laws protect Facebook from having to give it up, and the company has a general policy that they will not honor a subpoena issued in a civil case.  Facebook only gives up its data to law enforcement.  A divorcing spouse can, however, use the discovery process during a divorce proceeding to demand that the other spouse give up copies of their Facebook data.  A judge may set some limits on this, though.

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