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How electronic evidence can influence a New York divorce


During a divorce, emails, texts, social media activity and other forms of digital communication can all be admissible and highly influential as evidence.

Today, electronic evidence, such as emails and social media activity, can be used in anything from criminal cases to workers’ compensation claims. Still, many people in Kew Gardens may be surprised to learn that this evidence can also be used during divorce proceedings. Besides being admissible, this evidence has the potential to significantly change various aspects of the divorce settlement, from property division to child custody.

New sources of evidence

Many modern modes of communication can create evidence that is decisive during divorce. According to Forbes, texts and emails can be considered evidence, as can all of the following activity on social media:

  • Status updates and comments
  • Photos and videos
  • Materials that other people post

Many people may think that this information cannot legally be used during a divorce because it is private. However, once a person publicly shares information, even if it is only shared among a small group, it may not legally be considered private. Additionally, communications that are truly private, such as personal messages, may be subpoenaed during divorce proceedings.

Potentially decisive information

As The Huffington Post notes, electronic evidence can have varied effects during a divorce. If this evidence leads one spouse to uncover hidden assets, the final division of property may change significantly. Under New York law, all marital property must be divided equitably between spouses. Electronic evidence that suggests one spouse is exaggerating need or downplaying personal resources may also affect alimony awards.

For divorcing parents, electronic evidence can also affect child custody and visitation orders. Family law judges award custody based on various considerations. A judge may evaluate a parent’s lifestyle, judgment, home environment and overall stability. Social media activity or other electronic evidence that suggests an unstable lifestyle may reduce a parent’s likelihood of receiving custody.

Controlling electronic evidence

Given these potential outcomes, it is crucial for divorcing spouses to take steps to avoid giving away too much information electronically. Spouses should not share anything through text, email or social media that they would not want brought up in divorce court. Spouses should also remember that social media activity can easily be taken out of context or made public.

Once harmful electronic evidence is shared, it cannot be taken back. Even information shared through apps like Snapchat can be captured with a screen shot. Additionally, spouses who try to delete electronic evidence may face serious consequences later. Therefore, it is usually best for spouses to simply limit their online admissions or completely avoid texts, personal emails and social media during their divorces.

Get legal advice

Understanding how various everyday activities and decisions can affect a divorce can be challenging. Unfortunately, oversights or misunderstandings can have steep consequences. As a result, many people may benefit from consulting with a divorce attorney to understand and potentially limit harmful missteps during divorce proceedings.

Keywords: divorce, social media, digital communication, evidence