The effects of Social Media on Virginia Family Law Legal Outcomes (Part 2)

In Part 1 of our discussion we learned that much of the key evidence in Virginia Family Law (divorce and child custody) matters is obtained from social media, including texting and instant messaging. Many attorneys advise their clients to stop using social media in order to lessen the evidence pool.

In a recent report of child custody between Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, and her ex-fiancé, Dakota Meyer; the court ordered joint physical and legal custody of minor daughter [Sailor] after months of deliberation.

Despite their 3,600 mile difference, the order provides both parents with the ability to make legal decisions together on matters that impact their minor child, as well as splitting living time between both parents.

Palin, who had previously requested that primary custody be awarded to her, and ‘reasonable’ visitation with no overnight visits to Meyer, claimed that her daughter’s rigorous breastfeeding schedule prevented overnight visits or visits of more than 4 hours by Meyer with Sailor.

What Palin may have been seeking is considered “soul custody”. This is when one parent has both physical and legal custody of the child, while the other parent may have visitation rights, but does not have any custodial rights and cannot make decisions affecting the child(ren). Making sure that your rights are protected require an attorney in most instances.

SBStewart Law, PLLC 1518 Willow Lawn Drive Richmond, Virginia, 23230 (804) 572-4356, Virginia Bankrutpcy Attorney, Virginia Family LawDuring the lengthy custody battle, Meyer had received several text messages from Palin where she revealed “She only breastfeeds Sailor at night,” and that “she did not think about Sailor when she called off the wedding, or when moving to Alaska”. Meyer presented these texts to the court, and were helpful in what some may perceive as a favorable decision for Meyer. Read the full story.

Social media can reveal a person’s state of mind, intent, proof of communication, evidence of times and places that events occurred and proof of actions. The number of cases where social media is used as evidence in a prevailing case grows every year.

Since 2010, social media played a key role in approximately 700 family law cases. It was determined in a court of law that divorce parties may be granted full access (including private and deleted data) to Facebook and MySpace. It was further found that the parties can be ordered to turn over passwords, usernames, and login for social media sites.

In a November 2011 case, it was determined that Facebook does not offer “reasonable expectation of privacy”. With that being said, maybe our Miranda rights should sound something like this, “What you post can, may, and will be used against you in a court of law.” Be careful what you post.

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