Charlotte Divorce Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “Who pays for the children’s health insurance and co-pays?”
We live in an age where, for many, it has almost become second nature to compose a Facebook post, tweet, text message or email. It can also be tempting to see celebrities announcing details about their separations, divorces and infidelity accusations on social media platforms and want to follow suit. However, for family law attorneys, these digital snapshots into people’s lives can help make or break cases.
Picture this: You are in a custody dispute with your spouse, from whom you have been separated for a few months. At your daughter’s soccer practice, however, your spouse brings their new partner. Emotions running high after you drop your daughter off, you fire off an angry, cathartic post. You feel justified because your ex’s actions seem much more damaging. Since you don’t have your daughter that night, you go out with some friends later that evening. They take a few pictures of your gang enjoying the night out and post them to Facebook.
As innocuous as this behavior sounds, in the scenario above, you may have just damaged your case in your fight for custody.
There are many understandable reasons that can prompt someone to take to social media in discussing relationship, property and custody issues. Maybe you want to preempt your partner from doing the same thing. Maybe it is your way of seeking personal support in a public way. Or possibly you are simply so angry that you make put something on social media without having fully considered its potential impact.
Otherwise innocent activity that you don’t think would have any bearing on pending family law matters can drastically affect things. Pictures of a person drinking alcohol, references to casual drug use, pictures with a new significant other, posts about weekend plans, and details about activities people have done with their children that seem harmless but did not have the consent of the other parent, are just a few of the things that have negatively impacted individuals’ divorce, custody and other family law matters.
On the flip side, all this is true of the other party’s accounts in a family law case and their social media presence can be subject to legal scrutiny as well.
Either I or my partner has put something on social media that could affect our family law case. What now?
There are federal rules that impose a duty on both sides in civil cases to preserve evidence that a party could reasonably foresee may be relevant to issues in their litigation. This duty applies to all evidence that is in a party’s custody, possession or control. The term “evidence” includes electronically stored information, in any format, in any medium.
This duty to preserve electronic evidence exists from the moment you or your partner filed an action in family law court in your case. However, if one party files a “litigation hold,” and the judge grants it, the other party is then essentially court-ordered to preserve all relevant evidence. This means not deleting past posts, accounts and information. The consequences of failing to preserve evidence include fines and/or criminal sanctions.
If you are, or may become, involved in a family law matter and think that you or the other party may have information on social media relevant to your case, it is important that you seek the help of experienced family-law attorneys to help guide you through this process. Please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.
About the Author
Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A certified Family-Law Specialist, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state and administrative courts in North Carolina, before the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, and before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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