By James D. Doyle, Esq. In 2021, Congress enacted the Corporate Transparency Act, a pivotal…
How often does social media play a role in child custody and divorce cases? Are social media accounts analyzed by legal teams when working on a case? Does a poor social media presence (e.g., posting “inappropriate” photos or content) hurt people when it comes to divorce and custody battles? These are among the questions a reporter recently asked family law attorney Mary Ann Plankinton with her multijurisdictional practice in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
MAIN LINE TODAY: How often does social media play a role in the cases you work on?
MARY ANN PLANKINTON, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: Social media plays a role in the divorce, custody and other family law cases we work on every day. Clients don’t distinguish the personal information they’re sharing from the legal issues they’re facing now, or in the future, until they talk to us.
There are parenting apps we can recommend that are private and secure, and a court order may even be issued that requires such an app. With these apps, parents can communicate effectively with all information in the same place, instead of direct messaging each other through social media or combing through each other’s social media for information that may be damaging. We absolutely recommend such parenting apps for all communication instead of social media.
Many people don’t realize that in a court case, a third-party vendor can be brought in to scan a client’s computer, laptop and cell phone to download any communication that has certain words or phrases. Even if you delete it, this process of discovery will find it. Whatever you put out there, if someone has the available time and funds to find it, they will.
MAIN LINE TODAY: Are social media accounts analyzed by legal teams when working on a case? Does a poor social media presence (e.g., posting “inappropriate” photos or content) hurt people when it comes to divorce and custody battles?
MARY ANN PLANKINTON, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: Absolutely. Social media accounts make private lives public. They can give a first impression to a judge that is very harmful in any initial pleading or conference. It really goes to credibility, which is the most important part of any family law case. Social media posts are also accessible to kids, even though parents try to prevent that. We’ve seen it happen, and it’s very detrimental.
MAIN LINE TODAY: Have you worked on any cases where social media played a role in the outcome?
MARY ANN PLANKINTON, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: We’ve had custody cases where the parent made a great witness and said they would never say certain things against the other parent. Then the other parent produces Facebook posts that show the contrary, and it completely upends credibility.