We would like to thank a few of the other applicants for the Brandon Legal Group Scholarship.  Selecting the right winner from among the essays submitted was not an easy task.  We present the essay here by Limeecha Dunbar from WMU- Cooley Law School Tampa Bay Campus.  While Limeecha did not win the scholarship, her entry certainly deserves an “honorable mention”.

How Can Social Media Impact A Family Law Case

Everyday people broadcast their lives over social media sites such as, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s second nature for many people to post their current feelings and thoughts on their social media accounts for friends and followers to see.  Family Law Attorney, John J. Bates, states, “Social media should come with a Miranda-style warning, advising that everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Many in this new era display a careless disregard for adverse consequences, broadcasting personal and sensitive information through social media channels. While there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, many apparently assume that they are operating in a safe zone and are extremely candid as a result.” (The Advocate. 2012; Jonathan J. Bates)

Despite the negative consequences of social media, I believe social media has done more good. Social media has impacted Family Law Cases in such a way that it’s more efficient for the courts to access information related to the parent’s moral character, the parent’s ability to take care of their child in a responsible manner or a former spouse’s ability to financially support the ex-spouse.

For an example, a parent may post a picture of the child’s report card to show that the child is doing well in school. This in turn may lead to the conclusion that the child is respectful obedient, and being raised well. While social media can be beneficial to Family Law Cases, it can also be damaging to the parent as a party to a family law case. For an example, the opposing party may make a statement on social media that’s knowingly false to make the other parent of the child look bad in hopes to receive custody of the child. However, the allegation that was posted on social media may have a boomerang effect on the parent who made the allegation and the court will view that parent’s creditability as low.

Another way social media can impact Family Law Cases is that it can give insight of the person’s daily life style. For example, a parent may post on their social media page their place of employment or their current employment position. This information shows that the parent has a steady income that is used to financially take care of their child. Alternatively, it may show that a party to a Family Law Case is untruthful to their employment or being unable to provide financial support for the child or former spouse in a divorce. Author John J. Bates of Social Media and the Law states, “Facebook postings may reveal a timeline of actions, including time spent away from the children or inappropriate conduct in the presence of the children. Online boasts regarding financial successes may reveal increases in compensation or the existence of previously unknown assets.” (The Advocate. 2012; Jonathan J. Bates)

The utilization of social media helps the court to render sound decisions in Family Law Cases by seeing the good and bad of a person’s life. As mentioned earlier, social media is beneficial to family law cases but it can be damaging to a party in a case. Another example of social media damaging a party in a case may occur when a parent repeatedly post pictures showing their celebratory activities at bars and the parent is always in a party picture holding a bottle of liquor or holding an alcoholic beverage in their hand. The social activity mention here may give the court insight of that parent’s life style as one that may be problematic because quality time spent between the parent and the child is minimal. The court may alternatively find that the child is constantly around an alcohol environment which is not safe for the child.  In addition, a court may view the parent’s celebratory posts on social media as compelling for signs of an alcoholic because the parent has shown through social media the same regular celebratory activity.

Some of the nice things the Family Law Courts will have the chance to see through use of social media are parents picture posts of them spending quality time with their child while attending their child’s game, talent show, play or awards ceremony. The Family Law Court should view these moments as indicative of love and support for the child.

In conclusion, social media can impact Family Law Cases in a beneficial way. Social media allow courts to easily access parents and spouse’s lifestyles by just going onto a person’s social media web page and viewing their comments and pictures. The use of social media is beneficial to ensure that Family Law Courts fully consider all evidence and to ensure the judge make a sound judgement pertaining to the circumstances.

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