Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Monday, May 13, 2013

Guest Post by Christine Maddox: 5 Ways Family Law Attorneys Use Social Media in Court

Have you ever heard the saying, "What goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet?" In today's world, no words have ever been truly spoken. It's this persistent nature that has lawyers and law enforcement perusing social media websites in order to prove an individual's guilt or innocence. All too often, those trying to defraud the system don't take into consideration that information shared on sites such as Facebook, MySpace, or YouTube can wind up becoming incriminating evidence.

1. Mindset - The content of your posts on social media sites can be informative when determining your mindset during the time in question. Much like how psychologists are trained to read emotions of underlying meanings, this cyber-evaluation can be quite accurate in determining a person's motivations. Language, whether spoken or written, has tell-tale signs that can determine a person's frame of mind. This task is much easier to perform if a person blatantly posts information on social media sites pertaining to his or her actions, which happens quite often.

2. Time and Place - Establishing time and place is important in any alibi. If there is contrary evidence posted online, it could be easily condemning of your actions. It doesn't take a high-tech CSI investigation team to read the posted time and dates listed on nearly any piece of content you submit online. Some features of online activity can even stamp the very location you were in by use of GPS within a few meters. While this feature has great possibilities for other innovations down the line, it can also point a finger right at you in terms of determining your location at any given moment.

3. Personal Interaction - The very nature of social media sites is personal interaction with others. If you are trying to convince a court that you didn't or did have communication with an individual, your social messages could relate a different story. Twitter messages have incriminated a great amount of people from those committing criminal acts to those posting embarrassing statements that were created in the heat of the moment.

4. Actions - All too often, people will admit to committing particular actions without thinking of the ramifications of doing so. As cameras of some kind are prevalent in the pockets of four billion people around the planet, it is all too easy to simply upload a short video to YouTube and share it with everyone you know. In a matter of minutes, your actions can be seen by thousands of people. While you may appreciate the popularity this could bring you, it is also a great way to incriminate yourself.

5. Changing Laws - Precedents have been established that will allow a court to obtain usernames and passwords of those involved in order to establish grounds for cases. If there is probably cause that content within an individual's private account on a social media site can be used to base guilt or innocence, the court can order that information to be accessed by counsel. One such case of this happening was in 2011 as Stephen and Courtney Gallion was ordered to "swap" passwords and usernames of all social media sites they used to opposing legal counsel. 

If you post personal information on the Internet in any form, it is safe to assume that it will be there until the end of time. Never post information about yourself if you don't want everyone to read what it is your doing. Those fun and embarrassing stories and photos will follow you around for as long as you live.

Author Bio:

This post is contributed by Christine Maddox. Currently she is pursuing her Master’s degree from University of Texas as well as blogging for She loves to write anything related to parenting, kids, nanny care etc. She can be reached via email at: christine.4nannies @

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It is always fascinating to me how quickly new technology becomes incorporated into society in ways that cause real differences in peoples lives. Christine Maddox's blog here on social media in the court system is a testament of such changes. It's a very different world we live in now. I couldn't help but think of my sister, who is going through a divorce right now, and how social media might play a huge role in the future of her three children. It's comforting to know that she has a good family law attorney in minneapolis that is helping her. I just hope that her attorney has the experience necessary to guide her through a rapidly change court system.

Posted by: Donald Jenkins | Aug 6, 2013 1:09:59 PM

Thanks for sharing. I have been looking for information on family law in Olympia, WA. Technology is pretty amazing stuff. What will they think of next.

Posted by: family law olympia wa | Oct 21, 2013 6:57:00 AM

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