Social media, such as Facebook, and other internet communication is changing the landscape of divorce settlement negotiations and divorce trials. Domestic Relations courts generally accept emails, text messages, online pictures, and Facebook posts as relevant evidence. And as businesses are going paperless, more and more internet produced documents are being submitted by parties during discovery and in the courtroom.
The rules of evidence have evolved and it is now easier than ever to authenticate online documents and communication and to perfect evidentiary foundations required to introduce internet documents and communication into evidence. There has been an expansion of the hearsay exceptions, business records, and ways to authenticate documents. The new methods of authenticating documents and introducing evidence should shorten the time of court appearances and trials and thus free up resources for other matters.
What does this mean for the average party to a divorce case? 1. Follow the old adage ‘never put anything in writing’ especially in email and through the internet unless you understand that it most likely can and will be used against you; 2. Be upfront with your attorney about your emails and online posts so your attorney can adequately prepare you; 3. Don’t assume that your privacy settings will protect you; 4. Take internet communications seriously during settlement negotiations, in either a collaborative divorce or a court-based divorce setting, because should your case proceed to trial the communications may be used as evidence against you.